The Premier League often boasts that it’s the finest in the world and Alan Hansen described Manchester United’s 3-2 victory against nine-man Chelsea as a great advert for England’s top flight, but I believe it should be considered an embarrassment following one of the worst performances from an official you’re ever likely to see and it spoiled a potential classic between two great sides.
I’m not even sure to begin when analysing or even trying to explain what was in Mark Clattenburg’s mind yesterday when he reduced the home side to nine men and effectively ended the match as a contest before his assistant failed to flag for what should be a straightforward offside, but instead awarded a goal.
I don’t particularly agree with Branislav Ivanovic’s sending off either. He did clip Ashley Young as the England winger seemed to look at the turf rather than the ball, presumably to find a nice spot to plant his face into in order to get our defender red carded. But I can accept this decision as even if it was accidental, it’s the rule as Ivanovic was the last defender and there was definitely contact.
Within five minutes Clattenburg ended our chances after our players battled bravely back from a two goal deficit in what was looking like a Premier League classic before it was tainted by terrible officiating, ugly scenes and bad blood. Torres beat Jonny Evans who flew in at the Spaniard’s legs and he went down under the contact, even Gary Neville suggested that he was probably trying to protect himself. There’s no way Clattenburg could be sure there was simulation and had to think carefully before deciding what to do, but the yellow card was in his hand before he made a decision and whilst Evans pleaded to be spared of a second yellow the ref jogged past him to dismiss Torres.
Even then, you could maybe argue that in his hast Clattenburg had forgotten he’d already booked Torres as he rushed the decision and made a genuine error, but then he neglected to send Wayne Rooney off for clattering Ashley Cole whilst he was on a card (conveniently omitted from MotD 2′s highlights and not even regarded as a serious talking point by their pundits), it was an easy decision and he still got it wrong.
As for the ‘goal’, Javier Hernandez was in an obvious offside position, he’s almost even beyond Petr Cech. The Manchester United forward then proceeded to goad the home support by celebrating directly in front of them knowing full well that he was in an offside position and how already hostile the atmosphere was considering what came before. This is another point that doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the media as a talking point but if taking your shirt off is an automatic caution then this is most definitely an example of provoking crowd violence and worthy of a charge.
Everyone will say we’re bitter. Of course we are and I’ll defy any football fan worth his salt sit idly by an accept that sort of officiating as fair if their side was on the receiving end. Martin Samuel wrote a great piece about it in the Mail today and I thought Gary Neville’s Sky analysis was about as fair as you can get from a pundit, especially considering his affection for United. It simply wasn’t good enough and has to go down, as Samuel said, the worst refereeing performance in Premier League history.