Sir Alex Ferguson on Thursday hit back at claims he intentionally influenced officials after former referee Mark Halsey revealed his close relationship with the former Manchester United manager.
Halsey, who refereed in the Premier League for 14 years before retiring at the end of last season, caused controversy this week when the newspaper serialization of his book Added Time gave details of his friendship with Ferguson.
In the serialization, Halsey confessed to sending a text message to Ferguson asking him to speak out on behalf of Mark Clattenburg when the referee was under investigation for having allegedly made a racist remark to Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel.
Halsey claims that Ferguson subsequently did so at his behest and Clattenburg was later found to be innocent.
The former official, who spent a year out of the game in 2009 while he battled throat cancer, also admitted Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho paid for a holiday in the Algarve for him and his wife, Michelle, who has leukemia.
Halsey’s revelations led to criticism of Ferguson, who some accused of befriending the referee in a bid to win favorable decisions during matches, but Ferguson denied any wrongdoing and said the extent of his relationship with Halsey had been to support him during his cancer fight.
“Obviously there is an Alex Ferguson element in his [Halsey’s] book, he thought was important,” Ferguson told MUTV. “Most of the managers, particularly in the northwest, supported [him], and a lot of players by the way, when he had the cancer, him and his wife, it was a terrible period for the lad, and quite rightly the football fraternity got behind him and supported him. We have given him lots of jerseys for the dinners he was having and of course a Manchester United strip figures greatly in these auctions, a signed strip from all the players.”
Ferguson felt Halsey had exaggerated parts of his book, adding: “The laughable part for me was how I [supposedly] influenced the refereeing fraternity.”
“This is a guy who has the worst record of any manager in the history of English football, fined ￡100,000 [US$160,000] by them, suspended so many times, that’s some influence, I must say. It’s a little bit Walter Mitty,” he said.
Since retiring Ferguson has had hip surgery, but he has been back at Old Trafford recently to watch how his chosen successor, David Moyes, has been faring. United seem to have found some rhythm, with Wayne Rooney at the heart of it.
“They won well against Palace, it was a difficult game because many teams come and park the bus. On Tuesday night [against Bayer 04 Leverkusen] they were terrific,” Ferguson said. “Wayne’s performance was fantastic, I was pleased to see that, he’s got his energy back, the determination, his purpose to attack players.”