The usual hacks got all excited when they saw that Manchester United were awarded a penalty for a good tackle at Old Trafford, with their ‘what a surprise’ articles and ‘only at Old Trafford’ remarks.
Of course, there’s this myth that United get it all their own way at home, with referees like putty in our hands. If we want a penalty, we shall be rewarded one, simple as that, right?
Wrong. Whilst there was more to substantiate this myth in the early 90’s, there is little to suggest that is the case any more. Often, referees don’t want to be a statistic, another official to give a penalty at Old Trafford. There have been times when I wonder if our player has to be decapitated before the ref will take notice!
On Saturday, when Rob Styles made that ridiculous decision to award us a penalty, he opened up old wounds on these past stereotypes.
Sir Alex Ferguson responded to the penalty decision after the game, claiming there were several penalties we were denied last season, and therefore this was us getting one back. But is he right?
“I was surprised,” said Ferguson. “I haven’t seen it again but it looked to me as if the Bolton player got a foot on the ball. But Rob Styles turned down four or five (penalties) for us last season, so maybe we’re getting payback now. But he still owes us four!”
Without taking in to consideration our away matches, here are a selection of the stonewall penalties we should have had at Old Trafford last season. By stonewall, I mean the decisions the press thought should be penalties, rather than just a fan’s point of view.
Penalty 1: Joe Cole vs Patrice Evra 23.9.07
BBC: The home side were denied a penalty when a sliding Joe Cole appeared to make contact with Evra ahead of getting a touch on the ball.
The Independent: He [Mike Dean, referee] failed to award a penalty to Manchester United for Joe Cole’s crude challenge on Patrice Evra on 17 minutes.
Ref: Mike Dean
Penalty 2: Michael Brown vs Cristiano Ronaldo 6.10.07
The Independent: [Ronaldo] being denied legitimate appeals because of his reputation. Early in the game, Michael Brown simply barged him over in the penalty area without punishment.
BBC: Ronaldo gathered up the loose ball and looked to be clearly fouled by Michael Brown, but referee Mike Riley waved play on.
The Guardian: They should have had a penalty in the fourth minute when Michael Brown pushed Mario Melchiot out of the way in his eagerness to barge Cristiano Ronaldo over in the area. It was as clear a penalty as you could wish to see, yet alone in the stadium the well-placed referee, Mike Riley, viewed it as a fair challenge.
Ref: Mike Riley
Penalty 3 and 4: Steven Taylor vs Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Smith vs Ryan Giggs 12.1.08
ESPN and MEN: Critics would argue Ronaldo merely fell over Steven Taylor’s outstretched leg as he flew into the area. However, as Taylor made no contact with the ball, it was easy to see why Ferguson had a different opinion. There was no mitigating factor on the second occasion, though, as Alan Smith barged over Ryan Giggs. Styles was only a couple of yards away but yet again, he waved play on.
Ref: Rob Styles
As I said, this is just a selection, although I’m sure there would be plenty more where these came from. Of course though, these occasions aren’t highlighted in a massive way. The headlines don’t read “United won, but they would have won by more if not for poor decisions from the referee against them,” in the same way Sunday’s headlines looked at how United had been “handed” a win.
I don’t want to come across as a whinger. I’m fully aware that all teams get decisions against them on a weekly basis and that will continue for as long as we don’t have a video ref. My complaint is more to do with the fact that the penalties that we’re not awarded don’t bring about any attention at all, however when we do get a wrong decision in our favour, everyone is crawling all over it, dragging up bags full of statistics from years gone by to paint the picture United have the officials in their back pocket. I suppose that’s what comes with being the most hated and successful club in the country.