Sir Alex Ferguson has dismissed Alan Pardew as the manager of "a wee club in the north-east", whom he considers to be the most prolific haranguer of match officials, as he defended himself in the strongest of terms after the backlash against his conduct in the 4-3 Boxing Day win over Newcastle United.
The Manchester United manager expressed his amazement that Pardew had the "cheek" to criticise him, given how his Newcastle counterpart had pushed the assistant referee Peter Kirkup during his team's win against Tottenham Hotspur on the season's opening day, for which he was fined and given a two-match touchline ban. Ferguson's ire ran deep as he has been supportive of Pardew in the past, making himself available to offer advice.
"Alan Pardew has come out and criticised me ... Alan Pardew is the worst at haranguing referees, his whole staff, every game," Ferguson said. "He was at it the whole game on Wednesday. He shoved the [assistant] referee and makes a joke of it and he's got the cheek to criticise me. It's unbelievable. He forgets the help I gave him.
"The press have had a good field day out of it. They've addressed every possible avenue. The only one they've left out is Barack Obama. He's too busy. I carry that because I'm the manager of the most famous club in the world. I'm not at Newcastle, a wee club in the north-east. That's simply the facts of life."
Ferguson had been frustrated at Old Trafford when the referee, Mike Dean, overruled the assistant, Jake Collin, to allow Newcastle's second goal, despite it initially being ruled out for offside; the Newcastle striker Papiss Cissé was beyond the final defender when Danny Simpson's drive was turned into his own net by Jonny Evans in the 28th minute. Ferguson confronted Dean on the pitch as the pair made their way out for the second half before he rounded on Collin and the fourth official, Neil Swarbrick.
Pardew suggested on Thursday that Dean ought to have sent off Ferguson and he described the pressure that the referee was put under as "tough to take". Dean, though, was happy that Ferguson's language did not cross the line into the abusive or insulting and he made no mention of the affair in his match report, meaning that the Football Association could take the matter no further.
The FA has opened files on Roberto Mancini and Harry Redknapp, the managers of Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers, for their criticisms of the match officials during the Premier League's Boxing Day programme. The governing body wrote to both managers on Friday morning to request explanations about their post-match comments.
Mancini suggested that "maybe the referee [Kevin Friend] ate too much for Christmas" after what he felt was an oversight in City's 1-0 defeat at Sunderland while Redknapp raged about two decisions in QPR's 2-1 home loss to West Bromwich Albion, saying that the assistant referee "should go to Specsavers".
There is fury at City over the FA's investigation of Mancini, and not only because of their feeling that Ferguson has got away with more aggressive behaviour. They cannot understand how Mancini has come to face a misconduct charge and a possible touchline ban for what was intended as an attempt at levity when he resisted the temptation to give full vent to his anger. Mancini and Redknapp have three working days to respond to the FA.
Ferguson spoke of having had a difference of opinion with Dean over the interpretation of the offside law but, despite his "demonstrative" body language, he said he was "not out of order". Ferguson maintained that Dean had got the decision wrong, saying that Cissé had put his hand on Evans, which constituted him interfering with play.
"The interpretation from Mike Dean is that he wasn't interfering so that's a moot point," Ferguson said. "I think he was. Mike didn't think he was. And I think he was reasonable. I think Mike Dean handled it well. He's an experienced referee, mature. There was no ranting or raving from me. I was demonstrative but then I'm always demonstrative. That doesn't mean to say that I was abusive towards the referee. Some managers shove linesmen on the pitch and make a joke of it. I'm not making a joke of this. It was a serious decision and I think it should have been disallowed, I really do.
"What happened [before the second-half restart] was, as he [Dean] was walking towards the centre circle, I came up by the touchline and I shouted him over. He came towards me and I came towards him but I was not on the pitch by more than four yards and then we've come over together. I think that's overplayed, that."
Newcastle have shrugged off Ferguson's barbs, particularly the one about the "wee club in the north-east", but Arsène Wenger entered the debate, which took in the issue of refereeing consistency. Dean banished the Arsenal manager to the Old Trafford stands in 2009 when he kicked a water bottle after the referee had ruled out what would have been a late equaliser for his team.
Wenger admitted he was surprised that Dean did not report Ferguson and he felt the United manager should have been punished. "Should you behave like that? No," Wenger said. "When you go overboard, you have to be punished. If it's me or Ferguson or anybody else in the world, the rules are the rules."