Sir Alex Ferguson let his feelings known on referee boss Keith Hackett following United’s exit from the Cup on Saturday. Portsmouth committed 16 fouls in the game with only two yellow cards being awarded. The most notable events were fouls on Cristiano Ronaldo, where the referee, Martin Atkinson, enforced no punishment on the fouling players.

Just seconds in to the game, Ronaldo was shoulder charged by Diarra, who made no attempt to go for the ball, but the referee opted just to award a freekick and give the offending player a talking to. This set the tone for the match, with Ferguson believing the referee was indicating to the Pompey players that they could get away with fouling with no consequence. It took six fouls from the former Chelsea and Arsenal player before the referee put the players name in the book.

A few minutes later, as Ronaldo sprinted in to the six yard box, Distin was now the player to charge in to our winger, again, making no attempt to win the ball. Referee Atkinson waved away the blatant penalty.

Following the game, Ferguson publicly gave Hackett a piece of his mind. “Keith Hackett has got a lot to answer for because he is not doing his job properly,” he said. “He has to be assessed. I am assessed as a manager, the players are assessed and the referees should be assessed. That kind of performance (by the referee) should not be accepted. The standards are not good enough, but they are much better in Europe. It’s so ridiculous that it was not given as a penalty. I can’t explain it, but managers can get sacked as a result of things like that.”

This rant has been dismissed by some as comments made in the heat of the moment, stemming from sour grapes of the loss. However, this is not the first time this season Hackett has been on the receiving end from Fergie.

Back in November, the gaffer was frustrated at Hackett’s failure to fulfil his promise of dealing with two footed tackles appropriately. “At the summer conference, Keith Hackett was on about tackling from behind,” he said. “He made a promise to the managers that tackles with raised feet off the ground would be a red card and that tackles from the back would be a red card. Standards must be slipping because there have been some bad tackles recently, not just in our games but in quite a few others. And what happens then is that if someone gets seriously injured? Who gets the blame? The referee gets the blame.”

The Daily Mirror has today reported that Ferguson made a personal call to Hackett after the game, to continue his rant. In a game where Portsmouth offered little to nothing going forward, their goal coming from United pouring players forward to get the winning goal, after wrongly being denied the opportunity to 1-0 up after seven minutes, they are now through to the semis of the FA Cup at the expense of United. Whilst at least this now stops the tripe being printed about a repeat of the Treble winning season, it certainly shows an injustice against United.

Reports suggest Hackett’s response to the phone call was that he was not in charge of appointing referees for FA Cup matches, with that role being handed to the FA, but this does not excuse him for allowing such poor standards of refereeing in our game generally. There have been an incredible amount of poor decisions this season in the Premier League, with far too many players escaping punishment for fouls, far too many penalty decisions being ignored, far too many rightful goals being disallowed, and it is costing teams vital points and places in the Cup. Despite claims United always get their own way at Old Trafford, an incredible six stonewall penalties have been turned away this season, in games against Chelsea, Fulham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Portsmouth at home.

If an employee isn’t doing their job properly, then it is the boss’ job to correct this. Hackett, as Ferguson claims, is not doing his job.

The FA are now reviewing Fergie’s comments, meaning he will undoubtedly face some sort of punishment. By claiming the referee was too lenient on Portsmouth, he is doubting the integrity and professionalism of the ref, therefore meaning his punishment could be rather severe. Having a pop at the refereeing top dog is certainly not going to go down too well the FA either. However, with poor judgement from referees costing teams on varying scales week in week out, surely it’s time someone was allowed to question the slipping standards of officiating in our game.

Was Ferguson wrong to slate Hackett so publicly?