Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United
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Mark Clattenburg: Fergie stare sent shivers down my spine; Mourinho a changed man

| 24.05.2022

Mark Clattenburg was one of the best referees in the Premier League and in an exclusive interview with Ladbrokes he talked about his relationship with some of the biggest names in the game, the player he liked, one he didn’t and the manager he’d most like to have a pint with.  

In part one, Clattenburg discussed the recently-retired Mike Dean and in the second part he talked about getting banned for leaving a stadium early to see an Ed Sheeran gig and the dangers of refereeing local football as a teenager.

He started part three with his recollections of dealing with Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

The one occasion Sir Alex didn’t want Fergie time… his stare sent shivers down my spine!

Every manager came with their own velocity and style, which is one of the great things about the game. I remember, for example, Sir Alex Ferguson, and the first time I ever went to Old Trafford. It was the game where Pedro Mendes scored the goal that was never given. It should have been given, and for that reason I suppose I was in Manchester United’s good books. Many people, I’m sure, think I’m a Man United fan because of that incident, but I can assure you I’m not!

You build relationships with these guys over the years. It’s interesting because managers start to work out more about you and your style, and they alter their tactics accordingly. Am I the kind of referee who is quick to find a yellow card? If so they’ll make sure their players aren’t diving into tackles early on in the game.

Alex Ferguson, Manchester United

Sir Alex used to always complain about timing. That was his thing. You know, I can remember the day of the Manchester derby where City came and put six past them. They were 3-1 down and Sir Alex was shouting at me to blow the whistle and finish the match at 90 minutes. I think I gave six minutes injury-time and they ended up getting beat 6-1.

He went crazy after the match, because at 3-1 he can explain the loss a lot easier, but at 6-1, it was an absolute hiding. I probably played the correct amount of time at the end of the game, and it was an occasion where he obviously didn’t want Fergie time! He wanted the match to end.

I say it was uncomfortable at the end of the game, but he didn’t speak. Sir Alex wouldn’t speak to you. He would just stare. And that stare said a million words. He didn’t have to say anything! It sent shivers down my spine. I just remember leaving the stadium thinking ‘thank God I’m not a player in his dressing room right now!’

The two sides to Jose Mourinho and the moment I threw my boot towards him!

When Jose Mourinho first came to the Premier League he was a real character. We all know about the ‘Special One’ claims, but he really was a breath of fresh air with a new style of management. He ruffled the feathers of Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex, and it was just great to see this man come in and shake things up at the top of the table.

We’d had years of dominance from Manchester United and Arsenal, so it was great to see Chelsea challenging, and I remember when he left for Real Madrid – via Inter Milan – I bumped into him when I was fourth official at a Champions League game and he was always talking about England and how much he loved it.

He was actually suspended the first time I went to Real Madrid, because he’d been sent off in a Barcelona game the weekend before. That meant he couldn’t come near the stadium before or during the game, but he went out of his way to send me a message, through our delegate, wishing me all the best for the game. After the match he was allowed to come into the dressing room and we ended up chatting for a while. He sent the match observer out to talk to me and I’m thinking ‘I need that guy in here; I need him to hear you telling me I did a good job!’ He didn’t care; he was just such a character.

He came back to the Premier League a few years later and he wasn’t the same guy – he wasn’t the same person. He had these conspiracy theories which just didn’t happen in England. That relationship just ended pretty much there and then.

I remember refereeing one Manchester derby where, at half-time, City’s Brian Kidd was coming into my dressing room to ask us how long was left before play resumed. That was all he was asking, and I welcomed it, gave him an answer, and off he went, back into his dressing room. Manchester United had people watching what was going on around my dressing room, and Jose would complain that Brian Kidd was coming in and out of my dressing room. Jose was always welcome to do the same – my door was always open. I never stopped anybody from coming in.

Jose Mourinho, Roma

It was all a conspiracy, a game. I remember the one time I lost it with him in one of my last matches. I was at Stoke who were playing United. I’d had a good game, especially because Stoke was always such a difficult place to go and referee. Not because of the fans; they were incredible. It was just always so windy and cold up there.

I remember coming off at the end of the game, I think Wayne Rooney had just become United’s record goalscorer in the last minute. The game finished 1-1. It was a really good match and I knew I’d got everything right. I was happy with my performance when I got back into the dressing room, especially because Stoke v Man United is not an easy game to manage.

But Jose comes into the dressing room and makes another complaint against me. I just lost it and threw my boot towards the wall in his direction – missing him of course. I just thought ‘do you know what? I’m sick of these mind games. I’m sick of the rubbish that goes on’.

Some of the things he’d say… you’d leave the stadium, you’d have a three-hour drive home and these comments are just flying around in your head. You start questioning decisions you made in the game, he puts that doubt in your mind. Then you get home and watch the game back and realise you’ve made the right calls, you’d done nothing wrong.

Jose always blames me for getting the sack from Chelsea after losing to Leicester. You just think ‘how can you blame me?’ Your team got absolutely walloped, and it wasn’t just as a result of that one game. it was over a period of time.

He just wasn’t the same character anymore and our relationship just died off.

The manager I’d most like to have a pint with…

I’ve been lucky since I stopped refereeing because I’ve done a bit of TV work with ITV, and I’ve got to spend time with some great guys from the world of football, notably Roy Keane. It’s so strange because everything is completely different when you’re not playing or reffing anymore – it was great just chatting to the likes of him and Martin O’Neill about old times, having a beer. When you cross that white line it’s a completely different environment.

I really got on well with Sam Allardyce, someone from my area in the north-east. I’d say he’s the one I’d most like to have a pint with now. I was lucky to know him when I was a young ref while he was at Bolton. He was just so fascinating to watch in action. You know, in training, he’d make the pitch narrower for his team to work on, and then in preparation for European nights he’d make it wider. He did everything scientifically and meticulously to win matches.

Sam Allardyce

I remember being fourth official at Chelsea on the last day of the season one year and he brought Bolton to Stamford Bridge. There were whispers he was heading to Newcastle in the summer so, as a Newcastle fan, I asked him about it. He just had this big smile on his face which gave the game away. A couple of days later he was announced as Newcastle’s manager.

He didn’t last long at Newcastle because the fans didn’t accept his style of football. Sam had his own way of playing and ended up going to our arch enemies, Sunderland, who’d have him back in a heartbeat.

He’s just got so many stories, he’s such a great character. I don’t think modern-day football has that, and it’s something I really miss. It’s just become so professional, and there’s so much money involved now, you’ll do well to find characters like Sam in today’s game.

I had the hardest time reffing Craig Bellamy

There are plenty of players who I just didn’t get on with as a referee, but the one who I’d say I just didn’t have that sort of good relationship with was Craig Bellamy. It was better when he went to Newcastle because it meant I couldn’t referee his games. But I always found him difficult.

He was always just on the edge. Off the field he was a different person, but on the pitch he was so difficult to deal with. I probably didn’t help the situation by giving certain decisions against him. He didn’t like my personality, so we didn’t get on.

Vincent Kompany: a true gent who gave me words of advice after a shocking first-half performance

Someone who I had a fantastic relationship with, but who really didn’t help himself on the pitch at times was Vincent Kompany. He was such a great character, but he always seemed to get cautioned! He just loved flying into a challenge, he was that type of player.

He was such a nice person, though. I remember making a wrong decision in a game one time. I can’t think exactly what it was or who it was against, but I just remember coming off at half-time, and you could just feel the vibe from the stands – I’d made a mistake. You know, we never used to have our mobile phones on us, we wouldn’t look at screens, so we never knew at that stage whether we’d got things right or wrong, but you could just sense I’d made a wrong decision. But Vincent came over to me and said: “Mark, look, you’re one of the best. The best can still make mistakes, but there’s another half to play, and it’s now about what you do in those 45 minutes.”

He was just a great person, someone who acknowledged that us referees were prone to making mistakes. I remember reffing a game between Israel and Belgium, I think it was in Jerusalem. I sent him off for two yellow cards. Belgium were 1-0 up, I think, and, on a yellow card, Vincent pulls a player back. It’s a blatant yellow and I’ve had to send him off because he was stopping a promising attack.

Vincent Kompany, Manchester City

A couple of weeks later, I was reffing the Manchester derby at Old Trafford and Vincent was just smiling at me because of what I’d done a couple of weeks prior. He never said anything bad to me, he was just smiling about it. Anyway, just before half-time, he flies into a challenge and it was wet, so I think he’s slipped into a tackle which made it look a lot worse. Everybody wanted him sent off, but I gave him a yellow card.

He got substituted at half-time because he injured himself in the tackle I’d booked him for, and when he sees me in the tunnel he’s joking with me about how he could have been sent off twice in as many weeks by the same referee! United went on to win the game 4-2 though so luckily for me it didn’t become much of a talking point.

He’s such a great man though, and when I finished refereeing and he finished playing, he asked me to referee at his testimonial, but unfortunately I was in China so I couldn’t do it. Vincent’s just a great example of a solid relationship you can have with players in the Premier League. He stands out, not because he was a dirty player, but because he wore his heart on his sleeve, and if you cautioned him, he accepted it. He was one of those players I just had so much time for. He never really got any favours, but he always respected us on the field of play, and as a referee you can’t really ask for much more than that.

I’m refereeing Arsene Wenger’s ROW team at Soccer Aid – we’re rekindling that rivalry!

Arsene Wenger was such a character and we had a great relationship. You know, I’m involved at Soccer Aid in a couple of weeks and he’s managing the Rest of the World team, so we’ll be rekindling that rivalry once more!

I remember towards the end of his time at Arsenal, it just wasn’t the same. Not that we used to speak publicly, but the relationship just died out. I was refereeing Arsenal in big games, one that springs to mind is against Chelsea, where Arsenal could have gone top if they’d have won the game, but they concentrated so much on Diego Costa, he ended up scoring the winner and they won 1-0, and he scored the winner. Per Mertesacker got sent off and things just went downhill for them.

I’ve had some amazing nights at Arsenal over the years, so it’s one of those where it was difficult to see, especially to watch that relationship just fizzle out towards the end.

Arsene was another one of those names who wouldn’t really say much, he’d just stare and smile. We had a really good relationship.

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Author

Alex Apati

Alex has been with the Ladbrokes PR team since 2017 having previously worked for the news department. From sparring with Peter Fury to talking interviews on the Duke and Duchess' baby names, he's covered a range of sports and novelty events.

A frustrated West Brom fan who is no stranger to an oche, Alex is originally from Dudley, although he's worked hard to rid himself of the Black Country twang.