Whether by design or not, Sir Alex Ferguson’s rant against referee Alan Wiley’s performance during the Manchester United against Sunderland match on Saturday worked to divert attention away from United’s poor performance.

Personally, I find it ironic that it was Alan Wiley of all referees — especially because he was the fourth official in the Manchester derby, and laughed with Fergie during the added time while Mark Hughes looked on in anger. In Saturday’s 2-2 tie, you could argue that karma came back to bite both Ferguson and Wiley in the butt.

Manchester United’s first half performance was no laughing matter. Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher were completely ineffective in midfield and wasted numerous passes. And the combination of Rooney and Berbatov failed to get the delivery they needed to cause Sunderland any problems in the back. It was one of those rare first halves when it was the opposition who seemed to be in control of the middle of the Old Trafford pitch.

As for the incident that caused Ferguson to erupt with anger, it was in the second half when Phil Bardsley and Anderson tangled in the penalty area. Wiley ruled that Anderson had fouled Bardsley. Ferguson thought the opposite. To me, it was a fifty-fifty ball and both players were guilty of fouling each other. Wiley had to rule one way or the other, and since the call was so debatable, I believe Wiley made the correct decision.

Ferguson was also critical of Wiley and his fitness, saying that “It’s an indictment of our game. We see referees from abroad that are fit as butcher’s dogs. He wasn’t fit. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. I think he’s taking a rest, writing down names on his card. It’s ridiculous.”

As for the closing of the game, how many times does Manchester United continue to get an important goal at the end of a game? Fair play to them. They pushed Sunderland hard at the end and had some good fortune with the deflection. But overall in the entire 90 minutes in both this game and the Manchester derby, United looks vulnerable. Other Premier League teams take note.

Photo credit: Flickr.