The Big Decision Webb and the Media Missed

Sitting at the opposite end of the pitch, there was no way I could see Michael Carrick deserving that penalty. The direction of the ball changed, something all media commentaries have picked up on, meaning Gomes had made a save. But at 2-0 down and our title challenge hanging in the balance I’d happily take it.

It was only upon seeing replays that I found some sympathy for Howard Webb in his decision. Obviously he was getting ripped to pieces for awarding a controversial penalty at Old Trafford but the decision wasn’t ‘the worst ever’, as some people seemed to claim.

The ball changed direction, first and foremost, because Carrick kicked it to change its direction, with the intention of rounding the keeper. Gomes then hit the ball further wide whilst colliding with the player. Outside of the penalty area, if a player made contact with the ball then took out his opponent, it would be a freekick. For whatever reason, the rules change for inside the area.

Now, had the decision been made in the final minutes during a game United were losing or drawing, I would understand the media obsession that followed. Crucial decisions like that mean points and can swing title races and relegation battles wide open. But that’s not what happened.

The penalty was scored with half an hour to play. Tottenham had to hold on for just half an hour to leave with the three points and could afford to concede one in that time to at least go away with something. But they didn’t. They went on to concede four goals in twelve minutes and the country are outraged with the penalty decision? The fact that United added Carlos Tevez to the attack and were able to rip Spurs to shreds suggests that we probably would have gone on to get something out of the game. The first goal was fortuitous but there was nothing debatable about the other four!

Jermaine Jenas, with all his irony, claimed Webb crumbled under the pressure. Surely “crumbling” would be a perfect way to describe a team’s performance which saw them go 2-0 up at half time only to lose 5-2.

Harry Redknapp claimed there was no way Spurs would have lost had the penalty not been awarded. Ludicrous! Nobody knows what the result would have been but to rule out a United win given the way Spurs gave up after the scoreline turned to 2-1 is ridiculous. Redknapp was simply covering up the weak mentality his team has and his lack of preparation for a United comeback.

I watched Match of the Day and thoroughly enjoyed seeing our goals but was left irritated by Alan YSB Hansen and Gary Lineker’s obsession with the decision. Little attention was paid to the fact we totally destroyed Spurs in the second half, as if one penalty kick amounted to five goals.

The most striking decision fluffed by Webb was not the penalty though.

It was the decision not to send off Palacios for a disgusting challenge on Ronaldo. In full view of the referee, Palacios charged at Ronaldo, lifting both feet of the ground, studs showing, at the height of Ronaldo’s knee. Fortunately he skipped it out of the way.

ronaldo-redWe’ve seen Ronaldo sent off for something similar in the past, although his challenge wasn’t quite as dangerous. On derby day back in 2006, Ronaldo lunged at Andy Cole with one high foot. He didn’t make contact with the player but there were no complaints about the sending off.

BBC: The Portuguese winger was angry after being tackled heavily by Stephen Jordan and took his revenge on Cole, throwing himself into a tackle that did not make contact but still brought him a red card.

We had been playing for just six minutes when Palacios should have been sent off, the score still 0-0. Webb didn’t even book him. I agree with Redknapp, if this ref is our best, who is our worst? The guy had a perfect view of a blatant red card and played the advantage, not even calling Palacios back for a talking to!

Missed Palacios’ disgusting challenge?

So, do Spurs fans feel robbed? Which would they prefer? To play at Old Trafford with ten men for 83 minutes or concede a dodgy penalty with half an hour to play when they’re 2-0 up? It’s a no-brainer.

Mark Lawrenson has since sensibly claimed that Webb’s penalty decision hasn’t handed United the title.

A few Liverpool fans I’ve spoken to feel Howard Webb’s decision to award Manchester United a penalty on Saturday might have cost them the title. It hasn’t. That’s not the reason United are closing in on their 18th title.

The fact that they went on to score four goals after that is more a pointer to why they are edging Liverpool out. After all, they had Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov on the field. They would have scored to launch their comeback eventually, penalty or not. And it was the type of performance that suggests they have come out of their dodgy spell and are flying again.

I also saw Liverpool game from the weekend and was amazed by how little attention the media paid to their favourable decisions. Javier Macherano dived to win a freekick from which their first goal was scored whilst Lucas assisted Liverpool’s second with his hand. In a 3-1 win, these were two crucial decisions that Martin Atkinson got wrong. Yet when United are wrongly awarded a penalty in a 5-2 win, apparently we’ve been gifted the title!

The Mirror: Hull boss Phil Brown was again left bemoaning his luck as the free-kick that led to Alonso’s goal just before halftime looked to have been won by a dive from Javier Mascherano that fooled referee Martin Atkinson.

BBC: Hull were left aggrieved by some of referee Martin Atkinson’s decisions but their performance should give manager Phil Brown optimism that they can avoid relegation. Hull were clearly unhappy with the performance of referee Atkinson and felt there had been a handball by Lucas Leiva in the build up to Liverpool’s second goal.

So where are all the headlines singling out the decisions which kept Liverpool in the title race, mirroring the claims that United have won the title thanks to Webb’s decision?

Lest we forget, Manchester United should have had a penalty against Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final after Ledley King stood on Cristiano Ronaldo’s foot in the box. King even had the nerve to applaud the referee’s decision to book Ronaldo!

Also remember how United are not in the FA Cup final after Mike “Manchester United fan” Riley failed to award a penalty for the blatent foul on Danny Welbeck in a game which finished 0-0 after two hours! Welbeck had beaten the keeper and both Jagielka and Moyes admitted it was a penalty but where was the outrage from the media?

This isn’t me claiming the referees are against United, of course not. As a team in the top four we often enjoy more favourable decisions from officials than teams in the relegation zone, but this insane obsession with Manchester United in this country is baffling. I wouldn’t mind the ridiculous statements that referees had earnt us titles as much if there were the same sensationalised stories when decisions go against us. This doesn’t happen though. Had United beaten Everton on penalties after we’d got away with bringing down one of their players in front of an open goal, there’d be hell to pay! Why would the Everton player have gone down, if not fouled, when he had already beaten the goalkeeper?! How biased is that referee?!

During one weekend so close to the end of the season, United got a dodgy decision in a 5-2 win, whilst Liverpool got two dodgy decisions in a 3-1 win. It happens to teams up and down on the country on a weekly basis but for some reason, the decisions that wrongly go in United’s favour are blown out of all proportion whilst the decisions that wrongly go against us are swept under the carpet.

I obviously hope United do win the title this year and we look favourable to do so, but only a mug will be claiming in May that our title success was down to refereeing decisions. I can only hope that if Liverpool were top of the table the media would be highlighting the decisions they’ve been awarded this season.

For example, the fact they’ve been awarded eight penalties in all competitions this season and two against, compared to the four penalties in United’s favour and three against. Or maybe they’d look at the fact Liverpool have played against ten men in more than a fifth of their league games (playing against ten men on eight occasions!) and have had nobody sent off. Sadly, I doubt anyone would bat an eyelid!

Hated and adored, but never ignored.

For more of the same, check out the Manchester United blog, The Republik of Mancunia.

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