Manchester United 2-0 Chelsea – Ref Watch: Mike Dean

“They did not score any goals today. It was the referee who scored two goals for them.” He did not exactly say those exact words, but if he was still the manager of Chelsea today, this is more or less what Jose Mourinho might have said after the match. In truth, yesterday’s referee helped Manchester United a lot. Had it not been for Mike Dean’s few but flagrant mistakes, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team might have had a hard time taking all three points against an uninspired Chelsea.

After the he first half an hour of a game which promised to be highly entertaining and unusually quiet, Mike Dean looked set to have a perfect game. Up until that point he had not mistakes other than a debatable penalty decision, and then he made the afternoon’s most intriguing decision: sending off Mikel. There is no question that his tackle was an ugly one deserving of a yellow card at least, but some people think that it was far off a red card challenge.

Joe Cole was back-tracking to prevent Evra from getting in a dangerous position inside the Chelsea area. Not surprisingly, the Frenchman was faster and got ahead of the English winger who then made a desperate tackle in the corner of the area. He got the ball, but he went through Evra to do so. Chelsea was let off a red card and a penalty. As the decision could have gone either way, it cannot be seen as a mistake on the referee’s behalf. A few minute later, however, Mikel was reduced to tears by the referee.

The Nigerian entered into that tackle at full speed with both feet on Evra’s ankle. It was a challenge which could have seen Manchester United play without a left defender for the remaining of the season, luckily Evra was careful and took the tackle as best as he could. I know there will be a backlash from the Chelsea fans for saying this, but in my opinion that was certainly a red card.

The next big talking point of the game came deep into injury time in the first half. with about ten seconds left in the half, Manchester United won a corner and Mike Dean allowed for it to be taken. There is nothing wrong with allowing a corner to be taken as long as it is within determined time limits, however by the time it was executed the two minutes of stoppage time were already over, and this goes against the FIFA guidelines. That was the one true mistake made by Mike Dean during the first half.

The second half, however was a totally different story. The first minor mistake was booking Rooney. The mercurial forward was adjudged to have fouled Ashley Cole, though replays show that there was no kind of contact between the two. Characteristically, Rooney then went to the referee using all of his vocabulary. He was booked for dissent.

Given that he was booked earlier in the game, Wayne Rooney could have easily reduced Manchester United to ten men as well. Having lost the ball in the corner of the field to none other than Ashley Cole, he pushed the England defender in the back with all his might. I can find no reasonable explanation for Mike Dean’s decision to let Rooney continue in the game.

Soon after another Chelsea player should have been reduced to tears. Ronaldo started one of his trademark sprints with the ball at his feet and for the first time ever I saw him get the better of the former Arsenal man Cole. But never fear because the other Cole was nearby and again he started to track back. There is no way that he could have got the better of Ronaldo even when the latter was with the ball at his feet, so he made the sensible decision to lunge into a high speed tackle from behind and catch his heel.

It worked brilliantly as the referee did not see this challenge as worthy of a red card. Apparently he did not read the part of the rule book that says that a red card is issued for a tackle from behind. Ferguson says that that decision canceled out the Mikel card; however Chelsea could have easily finished the game with nine men.

With mere minutes left in the game, and Chelsea looking more and more likely to have a second shot on target, Manchester United needed some insurance. And so Saha found himself with the ball just inside the area and with Tal Ben Haim nearby. The Frenchman probably knew of this part of the Israeli’s game and so as soon as he felt a foot on his shin he jumped as if he had just been bitten by a snake. There was no doubt that there was contact, however it was as close to being an actual penalty as the one the Italians won against Australia in last year’s World Cup.

In short, Mike Dean had a pretty terrible afternoon though he made few mistakes really they had a massive impact on the eventual outcome of the game. For all the stick that Graham Poll received, he seemed to be far better than any of today’s Premier League referees. I wonder if he will receive another ‘big match’, maybe he will be forgiven like Alan Riley was.

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