No longer is it only the eyesight of the football referee that comes under question. Alex Ferguson set a new precedent by offering a critique of Alan Wiley’s conditioning after Manchester United could only manage a 2-2 draw with Sunderland on Saturday, denting their title ambitions. Instead of mentioning inadequacies in his own team; defensive frailties or inability to break down a tenacious Sunderland defence, Ferguson looked to how long it took the match official to deliver bookings pointing out that he was creating an opportunity for his own recovery.
Referees in the premier league have an effective conditioning program in place, they are tested twice a year (Cooper test, a high intensity interval test and a repeated sprint ability test) and have all their prozone performance stats analysed after every game (11039m total, average distance from ball 17.7m and average distance from fouls 15.6m on this occasion). He covered more distance than the majority of players in the game because he has to be involved all the time, there is no rest when the ball is up the other end of the pitch. For a 49 year old guy, this isn’t too bad.
I suspect that Alex Ferguson is well aware of this and his players are more than aware that the referee had very little to do with their performance. You don’t become as successful a leader as Ferguson without a knowledge of psychology and the effect that looking for external factors to blame your performance on can have. Instead, I think that this is more of a nod to the media attention that would’ve been directed at his players as a result of the loss had he not stepped in and offered an alternative subject to write about. I very much doubt if that own goal had been United’s winner, we’d have seen/heard that same response.