For the better part of the last 60 minutes, I’ve tried to make sense of the Mascherano sending off. It is unfortunate that the match will be remembered more for the action of 2 men (Javier Mascherano and Steve Bennett) than for Pepe Reina’s keeping (sublime and shaky in equal measures) or Brown’s goal, or even for the impact the result has on the title race.
I am a Manchester United fan – I say this to get bias out of the way, and hopefully my conscious awareness of my own bias in this matter will not impact my judgment too much.
On to the matter at hand:
Was Javier Mascherano’s second yellow card deserved? Yes. He ran over to the ref for an incident that did not concern him, presumably was warned and continued to pester the ref, who, abiding by the letter of the law (and not, as some people will churlishly suggest, to make a ‘name’ for himself), booked him.
Should Bennett have shown more restraint? Yes. While it’s not the referee’s prerogative to keep 22 players on the pitch (it’s the players’ job to stay there – and thank you to the kind soul who expressed this thought on their blog, I merely borrow your succinct expression of a key concept), I feel that a 2nd yellow for dissent is unfair as a law, and Bennett could have done better in terms of controlling the situation.
Is it Bennett’s fault that Liverpool lost? No. Mascherano knows the rules, and he should know, from experience, that arguing with the ref hardly helps change the ref’s mind. You want to ask the reasoning behind a decision, that’s a different story, but if you go up to a ref and berate him (as Steven Gerrard did as well for a free kick awarded to United outside the Liverpool area in the second half – he got away with it), that’s not on. Right or wrong, it’s against the rules (which need more flexibility) and from experience, Mascherano should know that the ref doesn’t change his mind just because you go up to him and bitch about it.
Can Mascherano be excused for his reaction? No. He is young, yes. Talented, yes. Passionate, yes. None of that exempts him from the rules of the game, just as nothing exempts any other player from the rules. The very fact that he had to be dragged away, that Rafa Benitez himself had to intervene (I feel for Rafa, he was in an extremely difficult situation and handled it well, I respect him more after seeing him today) – right decision or wrong, you’re not helping the game at all, and you’re not helping your teammates either.
In one way, the game (of football, in general) needed such a high-profile situation. I hope the FA learn from this, and amend the rules to:
- Allow only captains to approach referees, especially when contesting or questioning decisions.
- Tell referees explicitly to be more relaxed in dishing out the letter of the law when a 2nd yellow is involved (a challenge worthy of a red card merits an immediate expulsion, no doubt).
Liverpool fans, and Rafa Benitez, you have my sympathies. United may still have won the game, but no team likes to lose like this, and the team should not suffer a 3-0 defeat at the hand of bitter rivals because of the stupidity of one of their own.
Hopefully Mascherano mends his ways, and overall, players learn to focus on what directly benefits their team’s cause as opposed to charging the ref in self-righteous indignation.
I should add though, that Liverpool at Old Trafford looked stronger than Liverpool at Anfield earlier this season.
Wes Brown should stay at United
His passion for the club is unquestionable – for a quiet fellow (expressionless most of the time – even Carrick smiles more and EVDS and Vidic have that glowering look), his selfless effort in scoring the goal (risking injury considering the way he fell) and the sheer joy on his face were poignant, even allowing for the opposition – and Manchester United need people with his character in the squad.
Please Sir Alex, do what you can to keep him at Old Trafford.
Manchester United v Liverpool – Goal Videos
Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool – Brown
Manchester United 2-0 Liverpool – Ronaldo
Manchester United 3-0 Liverpool – Nani