AN ANGRY Alex Ferguson launched a withering personal attack on Alan Pardew on Friday and described Newcastle United as a ''wee club in the north-east''.
The Manchester United manager was furious over criticism of his confrontation with referee Mike Dean during the match against Newcastle at Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
Dean described Ferguson's behaviour as ''reasonable and rational'' and chose not to report the incident to the Football Association, but Pardew said on Thursday that the United manager should have been punished, a view echoed by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Pardew said on Thursday: ''I think Mike Dean might feel slightly disappointed he didn't do something about it. I think the pressure that was on him was tough for a referee to take. Sometimes when you reflect on a game you think you might have acted differently. You do that as a manager and I think he might have done that as a referee. But it's an emotional game and apparently they had a cordial discussion. I've had a few of those myself and sometimes I've ended up in the stands as a result of that cordial discussion.''
The Newcastle manager's comments provoked a full-bore response from Ferguson, who also banned television channel Sky Sports News from his media conference because it had broadcast footage of the Dean incident several times on Thursday.
Ferguson insisted his actions towards Dean had not been ''out of order'', and said Pardew, who was given a two-match touchline ban for pushing linesman Peter Kirkup in August, was guilty of far worse in his behaviour to officials.
He said: ''The problem for me and Manchester United is that the profile of the club is huge. Alan Pardew has come out and criticised me. Alan Pardew is the worst at haranguing referees with his whole staff every game. He was at it for the whole game on Wednesday. He shoves the linesman and laughs about it and he has the cheek to criticise me. It is unbelievable.
''The press have a field day. They have addressed every possible angle, the only avenue they have not gone down is Barack Obama as he is too busy. It's unfortunate that I carry that, because I'm the manager of the biggest club in the world. I'm not like Newcastle, a wee club in the north-east. That is the facts of life. I was demonstrative but I was not out of order.''
The dispute between Ferguson and Dean centred on the referee's decision to award an own goal by Jonny Evans, despite Newcastle's Papiss Cisse occupying an ''offside'' position.
Ferguson said: ''The interpretation from Mike Dean is that [Cisse] was not interfering, I think he was. I think that is reasonable. I thought Mike Dean handled it well. He is an experienced referee, mature.
''There was no ranting and raving from me. I was demonstrative but then I am always demonstrative, everyone knows that. I'm an emotional guy. That does not mean to say it was abusive of the referee.
''Some managers shove linesmen on the pitch and make a joke of it. I'm not making a joke of this. I think it should have been disallowed, I really do. I was not on the pitch for more than three or four yards. Then we came off together.''
Arsene Wenger, who had sought to avoid confrontation with Ferguson in recent years, said the FA should consider using video evidence to prosecute managers who behaved as Ferguson did to Dean. ''Yes, it should be considered. But the rules are the rules. At the moment it's not the case. Maybe we have to change the rules.''
Asked whether referees were scared of Ferguson, Wenger said: ''That's basically a little bit of an idea that is well spread around the country. Why should anybody be scared of Ferguson? I don't understand that. I think you have the rules and you observe them or not, and the referees have to act on that. They are professional people, they are paid to do that. On the day they made a mistake, that doesn't mean they are not honest, but they made a mistake.''
The United manager's second most pressing concern was his team's recent poor defensive record, which he admitted he could not explain. ''We have analysed it to every possible detail to try to get a constant thread that tells me how to do this. It just does not appear.''