By Abhishek Mehrotra
Over the 26 and a bit years Sir Alex Ferguson has been in charge of Manchester United, we've been witness to many of his avatars.
There's the scary taskmaster who suffers few fools and fewer egos. The mischievous scallywag who's not above a few mind games to eke out an advantage for his side. The quote-a-minute machine that, when in the mood, can turn a staid press conference into an enjoyable one.
And above all of these towers the man who is the most successful manager of all time in English football.
Love him or not, you can't help but respect him. Until, that is, he turns into the least likeable of all his guises - the bully.
In the past few weeks, that's been the Fergie on display and it has been an unedifying sight. His harangue at fourth official Neil Swarbrick in that barnstormer of a game against Newcastle was bad enough. (On a separate note - has anything ever come of venting the spleen at fourth officials, except managerial spleens getting some air?)
What made it worse was that the officials were right. Papiss Demba Cisse's goal was legit. But then, all managers do it. If that's not an excuse, at least the criminality is spread out.
The distasteful part came later after Fergie heard that Newcastle manager Alan Pardew had had the temerity to suggest that the United manager should have been punished for his rant.
"It is unfortunate but I am the manager of the most famous club in the world. Not Newcastle, a wee club in the north east," he said.
When players scream obscenities at the camera, like Wayne Rooney so famously did after his hat-trick against West Ham in 2011, there is at least the excuse that it was adrenaline doing the talking. But forget respect for the officials. Here was Fergie in the relatively benign and cooled-down atmosphere of a press conference, insulting an entire club.
He apologised for the comment later but what Fergie says or does becomes gospel, becomes a part of Manchester United and a part of its fan culture. Surely he cannot be unaware of that.
"Alan Pardew has come out and criticised me. He is the worst at haranguing referees. He shoves them and makes a joke of it. How he can criticise me is unbelievable. He forgets the help I gave him, by the way," continued the rant.
Sure. Pardew has had his fair share on unseemly run-ins with officials. But to bring up the "help I gave him" defies belief. Is he suggesting that we're not allowed to criticise anyone who has helped us? Ever? Criticism, if justified, is not the sign of an ingrate.
In fact, to criticise someone like Fergie, whose aura pervades English football, takes quite a bit of courage - especially if that criticism is coming from someone decades his junior.
But it's not just the Pardew incident. That was nearly a month ago.
After the game against Tottenham on Sunday, he let rip again - this time against the linesman who didn't give a penalty.
"The linesman is facing it [the incident]. I thought he had a very poor game, the linesman. I thought he was disappointing." Fair enough. A manager fuming at a wrong decision. Happens all the time.
"We have got that history with him. He never gave offside with Drogba at Old Trafford when he was three yards offside. Everyone remembers that - I certainly do." Bringing up a match from three years ago. Unusual, but it was a huge match so it's not that surprising the manager can recall who the linesman was.
"There was no way we were going to get a decision from the stand side linesman that's for sure."
This is the troubling part. Fergie is saying the linesman had made up his mind not to give any decisions in Manchester United's favour. This is the manager of the biggest club in England claiming a linesman is biased against them to the extent of not giving them anything at all - fair or not.
Simon Beck, the linesman maligned by the manager, has been involved in eight games (in all competitions) featuring United since that infamous decision not to flag Didier Drogba offside. Of those eight, United have won four, drawn three and lost one.
It's difficult to see any pattern that suggests Beck has anything specifically against United. A quick run through the ESPNSTAR archives doesn't reveal many contentious decisions either. Certainly not any that had Fergie frothing.
Ultimately, it comes down to respect. Ferguson commands it, and rightly so. But surely it befits one of the most venerated men in football to repay the favour? Or at least not launch unfounded personal attacks on those who dare to question him or give decisions he feels were unfair?
That can't be too much to ask of a knight of the realm.