Jeff Winter has been causing a bit of a fuss of late with his seemingly totally biased and negative opinions against our manager.
No manager has ever been given a touchline ban for comments he made about a referee but Winter went as far as claiming Ferguson should have been given a FIFA stadium ban! We weren’t alone in thinking he was bonkers.
But then, this is the referee who thought Liverpool fans applauded him after the final whistle following his last visit to Anfield. “It was longer and louder than normal, even for a big home win. Did they know it was my final visit? Was the applause for me? They are such knowledgeable football people, that it would not surprise me.” Or maybe it was because the result confirmed their Champions League spot for the following season?
Anyway, after arguing with him about his claims that Dimitar Berbatov dived against CSKA Moscow and getting nowhere, I asked him would he be interested in having a chat about various topics for the blog. He happily and kindly obliged.
Scott the Red: People often say that decisions even themselves out over the course of the season. Given that Chelsea’s goal against us should have been ruled out on three counts and United were denied a penalty, whilst Rooney was wrongly ruled offside when he was played on by Ashley Cole when Rooney would have been one on one with the keeper, do you think there’s any way that match deciding decisions in games against your closest rivals can even themselves out? United vs Chelsea is an example of a six pointer so my opinion is that the only way decisions of that magnitude even themselves out would be if we were given a match deciding decision against Chelsea at Old Trafford this season. What do you think?
Jeff Winter: I think if you look at last season’s results, it was not United’s results against the others in the “Big Four” that won them the League. In fact, quite the contrary. Even SAF admitted that had United taken their chances, they would have won comfortably. In any game, and most certainly over a season, player mistakes have much more effect on the result of a game than any refereeing decision.
STR: I’d argue the games that won us the league last season are irrelevant to this season. The season before last we picked up 13 points from 18 against the top four, whilst losing to the likes of City and Bolton. Doesn’t change the fact points from the top cost you more – had we beaten Chelsea we’d now be 1 point clear instead of 5 points behind. Regardless, do you think it’s now time video refereeing was brought in to stop the wrong team going home with the points?
JW: Personally, I believe in goal line technology but all other matters should be left to the match referee. Football is not like other sports in that there are not so many natural breaks in play when video analysis could take place. Constant stoppages would kill the flow of the game.
STR: So what about players who blatantly cheat and get away with it? For example David Ngog’s dive against Birmingham last week robbed his opponents of two points which could be very important to them come May. Do you think retrospective punishments should be introduced?
JW: I most certainly do. This, along with subsequent suspensions for guilty players, would act as a massive deterrent for future games.
STR: This would certainly make the referee’s life easier too, with less players willing to cheat, although in some matches, it might be worth it and the ref could still get conned. What’s the worst decision you’ve ever made in a match?
JW: I was fortunate. Whilst obviously I made many honest mistakes, I never made such a massive clanger that lived with me throughout my career. I once turned down a couple of penalty appeals when Fulham’s Boa Morte was challenged by Sol Campbell. On watching MotD, I saw I was wrong on both counts. Regarding United, I don’t recall a massive mistake, but I am sure that you will tell me differently!
STR: We’ll get on to that in a minute, Jeff. First tell me, do referees watch replays of any mistakes they’ve made at half time?
JW: No, you don’t have time, but there is always someone who tells you that you may have got something wrong. SAF springs to mind!
STR: He appears to always be on your mind at the moment, given the amount of articles you’ve written slagging him off lately. We’re told it’s wrong for managers to criticise the mistakes of the referee but it appears as though anyone can have a pop at the manager these days. His Alan Wiley comments have certainly made him a very unpopular man amongst the men in black at the moment. Do you think referees are capable of switching themselves off from any bias and making themselves completely neutral, or are they just human?
It was Mike Riley’s decision to wave on a stonewall penalty on Danny Welbeck in the FA Cup semi-final last season that got me thinking about it. The press had quoted stat after stat about the number of penalties Riley had awarded to us (it didn’t matter whether they were all nailed on pens or not) and David Moyes even called Riley a United fan in the week leading up to the game. Phil Jagielka brought Welbeck down and admitted it should have been a penalty after the game, as did Moyes. Can referee decisions be influenced by off-field events?
JW: SAF is the king of the mind games and I am sure that at times he has benefited from it. Conversely, sometimes it may have worked against him. Who knows how sub-consciously the mind works. In a moment of indecision, a player’s reputation, or something that you have been made aware of, might just put a little doubt in your mind. This I think is a distinct possibility.
STR: Quite frankly, I would argue that makes the need for video refereeing even more necessary. We’re all only human after all, eh? Now on to your ‘human’ moments. How the hell did Dennis Wise escape a sending off during the FA Cup final 2004? With 20 minutes played, he cynically fouled Ronaldo, making no effort for the ball. Then he shoved Ronaldo in the face. Before half time, he repeatedly fouled Scholesy in the area, dragging him to the ground at one point. Then, as the players left the pitch, he shoved Gary Neville in the back, right in front of you. You didn’t award a single yellow card for any of these offences and another referee might have given Wise a straight red for raising his hand to Ronaldo’s face. Did you make a mistake?
JW: Looking at all that, perhaps he should have been hung rather than sent off! I was happy with the way I handled the game. No one needed to be sent off and I managed to keep 22 players on the pitch with only one yellow card. This was my style and, in the main, people, especially the players, appreciated it.
STR: Well it would be great if all matches played out with 22 men, course. The less referees we get like Phil Dowd, who seemed to take great pleasure in sending Wayne Rooney off for nothing last season, the better. But that doesn’t change that some players do deserve to get sent off and the desire to not want to spoil a game shouldn’t completely override the need for punishing those in the wrong. Still, it had to be pretty good being in charge for a Cup final. What is your favourite United related moment?
JW: Obviously my final game when United beat Millwall in the FA Cup Final was emotionally significant to me. At the final whistle, SAF shook my hand and obviously at that point there was no bad blood, despite our previous disagreements. There are many more tales in my autobiography. It is a good gift idea with Christmas approaching!
STR: I had to expect a plug sooner or later! If not the Cup final though, what was the best United game you ever reffed?
JW: It had to be the game at White Hart Lane when United were 3-0 down at half time yet still won 5-3.
STR: Good times. Still, Arsenal beat us to the title that year. Who do you fancy to win the league this season?
JW: I hope that Arsenal win it. Everyone wrote them off but they play great football. Realistically, it will probably be between Chelsea and United. My preference would be for United. It’s a Northern thing.
STR: I would have thought the Northern thing would have made you favour Chelsea – seems to do the trick for Liverpool and City fans! Anyway, who is your current favourite player in the league?
JW: You are going to love this one but, as usual, ask me a question and I will give you an honest answer. Steven Gerrard. Mind you, Wayne Rooney is getting better and better. Probably my all-time favourite, other than Boro players, is Gianfranco Zola. He was a great player and is also a gentleman.
STR: Gerrard? Christ. Well, let’s not pull any punches now then. What do you think of Sir Alex Ferguson?
JW: As a Rangers man, I am in full agreement with him. As a manager he is excellent. He has built and re-built great sides. Any fan, if they are honest, would have wanted him as their manager. However, he has helped to turn United from a team that for many years after Munich were loved and admired by many, into a team that everyone hates. Much is through jealousy but also his attitude and behaviour hardly warms him to others in say the way Sir Bobby Robson did. He is a bully and a very bad loser. He has fallen out with his own players, as well as refs and other managers. But the bottom line is that he is a winner. You can’t knock him for that.
STR: I think the saying goes ‘show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’. Sir Bobby Robson, God bless him, was a lovely chap but had he dominated English football for almost two decades he probably wouldn’t be the popular man he is remembered as. Ferguson does what he does for the betterment of the team, and if exaggerating the siege mentality wins us title after title, I’m not going to be complaining. Whilst he’s fallen out with people, let’s not forget how many managers in this country ring up Sir Alex when they need some advice (Steve Bruce, Alan Curbishley, Paul Ince, Alex McLeish, etc.)- hardly the behaviour of a bully!