Michael Bertin writes regularly about soccer for Deadspin Sir Alex Ferguson can go fuck himself. Okay, literally, that might be a bit of a tall order, but he does have a saggy set of B-cups so he could at least give himself a good feeling up. I mean this with the utmost respect, of course—the guy has built a machine at Manchester United—but apparently he thinks his squad needs special treatment. The Red Devils' manager was quoted as saying: "There is something wrong when Manchester United get seven bookings." Pretty sure he's not saying there is something wrong with his team's play, but with the refereeing or the universe or something. Funny part about it is that the comment wasn't from Sunday's 1-1 draw against Chelsea (when United did indeed collect seven yellows) but from back in February, after United got booked seven times also all yellows and also in a 1-1 draw at Tottenham. That match was pretty much the reason that the league launched its quaint "Respect" campaign this season.It was actually a re-launch. Three years ago, the EPL trotted out the slogan "Respect the ref, respect the game" with the aim of clamping down on abusive language, diving and mass confrontation of the official. And it successfully removed all diving from the game. This time around the league is setting the "Respect" bar a little lower and just asking that only captains address the official. Basically every couple of years the English need a massive campaign to say, "We're not kidding any more, we're going to enforce this rule. No, this time we totally mean it. Seriously. Why is everyone laughing? Oh look, pies." Anyway, the weekend rematch of last year's Champions League final and what could have been an epic featuring the return of the EPL's favorite (oops, "favourite") gravity victims—Didier Drogba and Cristiano Ronaldo— turned into, eh, a decent watch, notable mostly for the facts that Chelsea couldn't finish and United couldn't keep their mouths shut. Oh, and Fergie is a giant hypocrite. Joe Cole had a couple of looks that took more skill to miss than to bury and still has to be thinking he blew the chance to put nine points between the sides, assuming Cole's inner monologue can speak in complete sentences and do math. Of course that would have been irrelevant if Nicolas Anelka had decided to redirect a cross into an open net instead of trying to trap it with his testicles (Obligatory cheap joke: "Oh wait, he's French. He doesn't have testicles"). And after claiming an early lead, United puts its efforts into taking out the TCP (and anyone who knows what the fuck that lyric means, feel free to chime in). Scholes for a late tackle. Ferdinand for dissent. Rooney also for a late challenge. Cristiano Ronaldo also for dissent. Neville for the pre-pube Mexi-stache. Not a one of them was overly harsh: that was Scholes third late challenge; Ferdinand, despite not having the captain's arm band spent as much time sniping at referee Mike Riley as defending; and Ronaldo, took all of five minutes after entering the game to play "'Scuse me while I kiss the ground." Untouched. Of course. But all of that pales in comparison to what happened at the match end. With around 92 and change on the clock, and after the officials had signaled 3 minutes of stoppage time—and that's a minimum number—Ferdinand fouled Drogba on a header right at the edge of the box. Riley walked to the spot of the foul (the announcers even exclaimed that Ferdinand was being sent off). Even stranger, Ferguson came running out on the pitch. An automatic ejection. The Chelsea fans around me were going nuts. A spot kick with a man advantage for a chance to win. Sweet. Just as quickly the Chelsea fans around me were all confused as both teams started walking off the pitch. Whaaaa... ? Turns out Riley blew the final whistle, despite the fact that Drogba was fouled (he was still on the ground and needed attention) and the minimum of 3 minutes hadn't passed. Now, compare that to the last time United collected seven cards, that Tottenham match in February. The Red Devils were down 1-0 when the ref indicated 4 minutes of stoppage time. But play was allowed to continue to 5 minutes so United could take a corner. On the last touch of the match, Carlos Tevez redirected the ball into goal and Man U escaped with a draw. So, instance A, whistle is blown early to prevent United from facing a kick that could send them to a loss. Instance B, the ref allows play to continue so they can get an opportunity to level (which they do). Yet, Sir Alex spent the post game Sunday complaining that he couldn't complain about the officiating. It's not like United are the only beneficiaries of questionable referee decisions, but man they seem to be the most consistent beneficiaries of them. I don't know. I'm admittedly biased. But that's also a team that somehow conceded all of
one two penalty kicks against them all of last season. In any event, if Ferguson can afford £30 million for a striker who can't be bothered to break into anything beyond a trot, he can probably afford any five-figure fine he'd probably get for just complaining again that United shouldn't be allowed to collect seven cards, seemingly for no other reason than they are United.