|United we stand: I suspect this is a dodgy picture|
A REFFING DISGRACE. There is no other way to describe a weekend of enthralling – but highly controversial – action in the English Premier Division.
In two days of screaming injustice, the so-called greatest football league in the world contrived to produce THREE questionable results thanks to the whistle-while-you-work brigade.
At Arsenal, Mikel Arteta’s scrambled winner over QPR was shown to be off-side when the Spaniard hit the bar with a header before ramming the ball over the line on the rebound.
At Everton, Liverpool were denied a clear last-minute Merseyside Derby winner when the unloved Luiz Suarez was robbed of a last-minute hat-trick and a 3-2 win.
And most infamously of all, there were two incidents at Stamford Bridge which suggest the top-of-the-table clash between Chelsea and Manchester United was radically altered by a man in black called Mark Clattenburg.
This morning Clattenburg, the man chosen to referee the Olympic final between Brazil and Mexico at Wembley a month ago, stands accused of abusing two Chelsea players, one of them racially.
Before that the 37-year-old from Newcastle had sent off two Chelsea players with the match evenly balanced at 2-2, the Blues staging a remarkable comeback after United had taken an early 2-0 lead.
The first sending off of Branislav Ivanovic was fair enough but the second – a second yellow for Fernando Torres “simulating” after being clearly fouled by Johnny Evans – was simply ridiculous. And though the referee can always blame his assistant, Javier Hernandez’s winner was certainly off-side too.
Remember, Clattenburg is the guy who was told he would never referee again in January 2009 after “breaching his contract” and sending threatening emails to business associates over debts of £175,000 (R2million).
A few months later Clattenburg was at it again, sending off Craig Bellamy and telling the Manchester City bench at Bolton: “How do you work with him all week?”
In 2010, Clattenburg was the referee who controversially allowed Manchester United’s Portuguese star Nani to score when Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had placed the ball for a “ghost” free-kick.
Now Chelsea are claiming Clattenburg called Juan Mata, scorer of a wonderful free-kick on Sunday, “a Spanish twat” when he was cautioned in the 76th minute.
Chief executive Ron Gourlay, with Mikel and manager Roberto Di Matteo, demanded an apology after the game but Clattenburg refused and Chelsea released a statement yesterday saying: “We have lodged a complaint with regards to inappropriate language used by the referee and directed at two of our players in two separate incidents.”
For all Clattenburg’s past we can make no real allegations of bribery or match-fixing. As Sir Alex Ferguson said afterwards: “The boy was touched and he made a meal of it. He could have carried on and scored. But the winner was off-side, we had a bit of luck there.”
With previously unbeaten Chelsea boss Roberto di Matteo complaining “all the decisions went United’s way”, the usual accusations against United began. Are they justified? Well, yes, if you consider how many penalties and red cards go the way of the ageless old Scotsman Ferguson.
It’s not corruption, it’s just the Fergie way. Officiate poorly in Sir Alex’s eyes and you’ll never referee a big game again – and you can expect a dressing-room visit not to mention a satanic choir of complaing Red Devils.
Referees like Howard Webb have long been accused of being on a United contract, but the truth is they are just scared to offend the 70-year-old who has been in charge for 26 highly-successful years.
What the weekend’s injustices demand is not an investigation in to United but a review system for football. Both codes of rugby, all forms of cricket and Grand Slam tennis use various replay systems, and as I
suggested on eNews yesterday, football has to follow suit.
Give the referee a 30-second time-out to ask the television official if an incident is as it looked, let him make
a considered decision with replay evidence. Most top-flight matches go in to six or seven minutes of added time anyway, surely the game has time for a quick break to avoid catastrophic refereeing errors?
If FIFA and the FA continue to ignore such demands, the questions around United will never be answered.