Unsurprisingly, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his Chelsea counterpart Felipe "Big Phil" Scolari hold differing opinions on the English Football Association's decision to rescind the red card given to Chelsea's oak-solid captain John 'Tiny Tears' Terry at the weekend. The decision allows Terry to play against United in this weekend's game between the two at Stamford Bridge.
Ferguson claimed that "if it had been a Manchester United player [referees' chief Keith] Hackett would never have done this for us." The United manager claimed he had heard that Hackett had ordered referee Mark Halsey, who gave the red card to Terry for "serious foul play" in Saturday's game against Manchester City, to rescind the card, and that Halsey had refused. Halsey has been removed from the Premier League referees' list this weekend and will instead officiate a League Two (fourth tier) game between Chester and Shrewsbury Town. And the FA said it will be investigating Ferguson's remarks, stating that Hackett had no involvement in the decision.
Meanwhile, Scolari was positively sanguine about the whole affair. "I am satisfied because it is the first time I am a coach when they changed the decision of the referee," he said, possibly while reclining on a bed of silk cushions, sipping a cocktail and smoking a cheroot. "I think only in England this would happen. In other countries the referee is the God. This time the referee said he made a mistake. For me it is a surprise, a positive surprise. The Football Association understands that the referee makes mistakes sometimes like you and me."
Zen-like Big Phil understands that to err is to be human. Poor Sir Alex, struggling to raise the perpetually downtrodden underdogs of Manchester United to the top half of the Premier League table, senses that another conspiracy is afoot. Defeat on Sunday will merely confirm his fear that the English soccer establishment is out to get him.