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Respect The Ref? Explain This One Riley

Middlesbrough committed 22 fouls today yet received 3 yellow cards. How does that add up? Good to see that Ferguson’s rant about the incompetency of Keith Hacket’s band of referees has been taken on board. Or not.

Less than a minute played, Aliadiere fouls Evra. With two minutes played United won their second free kick after a Pogatetz foul on Ronaldo. Five minutes played, Ferdinand is fouled by Alves. Seven minutes later Arca is guilty of a crunching foul on Carrick 30 yards out, referee has a word. Fifteen minutes played and Wheater fouls Rooney on the wing. Sixteen minutes played, Boateng fouls Scholes. Twenty minutes gone, and United make their first foul of the game in the opposition’s half, in contrast to the six from Boro. A minute later, Boro fouling again, this time Arca on Scholes. Twenty four minutes played, Gary O’Neil is guilty of a horrible tackle on Evra just outside the box, but Riley waves play on. Evra limps off the pitch which is greeted with jeers and boos. A few minutes later, Rooney is through on goal only for the linesman to lift his flag, despite Wheater playing him a yard onside. Good to know the linesmen are fully aware of the rules which state they should give the benefit to the attacking player.

Half an hour played, Gary O’Neil fouls again. Forty two minutes played, Evra is fouled again, this time it’s Alves. Just before half time Taylor clearly blocks Ronaldo’s shot with his arm which is up in the air in the box. Mike Riley, with a great view, waves play on. This is the same Riley who everyone says gives United penalties for nowt?

Just after half time, Luke Young slides in with his studs on Evra. Horay, first yellow card of the game following eleven Middlesbrough fouls. Fifty four minutes played, O’Neil fouls again, this time it’s Scholes. Fifty six minutes played, Aliadiere guilty of another foul, on Wes Brown. The second yellow card of the game goes to Boateng ten minutes later, for another poor challenge on Evra. Three minutes later, Luke Young fouls Ronaldo. Two minutes later (72 minutes), Boateng fouls again, and again it is Paul Scholes on the receiving end of a late challenge. Seventy seven minutes, Aliadiere again fouls Wes Brown.

Third yellow card comes in the eight fifth minute, as Ronaldo is prepared to charge in to the box. Surely a goalscoring opportunity as O’Neil purposefully takes a swipe for the Portuguese winger. Had he rightly received a yellow for the poor challenge on Evra in the first half, this would have been his marching orders. Three minutes after the booking, O’Neil fouls Hargreaves. Eighty eight minutes, Boateng shoulder charges Ronaldo, with no attempt to go for the ball. Already on a yellow card, Fergie is rightly incensed that Riley just has a word with the player. He hasn’t finished there though, injury time begins and Boateng fouls Park.

Now, I’m sure every team could cite examples where this happens. The point of this article isn’t to wallow at how hard done by United are, rather to question the state of refereeing in this country. Where players are let off foul after foul, facing no consequence. Had Evra’s leg snapped when Gary O’Neil twisted our defender’s leg between his, what is the action that would have been taken? Does the fact that Evra is lucky enough still to be running around suddenly make it acceptable that O’Neil took the man and not the ball?

Ferguson has rightly criticised Keith Hackett this season, publicly on two occasions, for not getting his referees in order. After Taylor’s lazy challenge ended Eduardo’s season, including a trip to Euro 2008, the media frenzy around action and consequence was rife, however that has all seemed to die down now. The fuss is about respecting referees, which is something I agree with. Seeing half a team charge down a referee is not something anyone wants to see. But when a player has been kicked from pillar to post, being offered little protection from the referee in the form of yellow cards, are they obliged to show the referee respect that they themselves aren’t being shown?

Against Portsmouth in the Cup a few weeks ago, Ronaldo was shoulder charged off the ball as he accelerated down the right wing. It was no surprise that Distin felt he was able to do the same thing in the box a few minutes later, and it was no real surprise that the referee didn’t award a penalty for it. It appears as though playing the man with no attempt for the ball is perfectly acceptable against certain players. I am not asking for football to become a non-contact sport, not by any means, but how can it be deemed a fair challenge for a player to charge in to another without even taking a glance at the ball?

Regardless, United have the best squad they’ve ever had, and we should win the league on merit. At 1-0 against Boro, had the referee kept his flag down when Rooney was onside and one on one with the keeper, maybe today’s result would have been different. Had Riley correctly awarded us a penalty for handball at 1-1, again, maybe today’s result would have been different. But United have to plough through regardless. It wasn’t the referee who decided to play John O’Shea in the centre of defence after all.

City weren’t scoring any own goals for us, and Boro certainly weren’t hitting the woodwork three times, which are blessings Chelsea have received over the past fortnight, but United aren’t getting the rub of the green at the moment. That happens, and it doesn’t need to be addressed in detail.

What does need to be addressed is the incompetency of referees, their status as seemingly infallible when questioned, and the treatment of certain players within the Premier League. As the snow poured down on Ronaldo today, as he got kicked and shoved whenever he touched the ball, he has got to question at times why he’s still playing in the league. Why play in a country where referees continue to allow him to be fouled, where players intentionally go to hurt him, and where he is booed whenever he hits the deck. The abuse that was hurled at Ronaldo last season, for example, as he lay on the ground, after Michael Ball planted his studs in his chest, was disgusting. This is not just for Ronaldo though, but any skilful player with quick feet, where the opposition resort to fouling as their only way to stop them. Do we want a league full of heavy footed English players, hoofing the ball up the pitch, whilst the likes of Ronaldo and Torres enjoy the praise and lack of bruises in Spain?

There was a time when great players were cheered. People would pay money to watch their team when George Best was in town and enjoy what he had to offer. There was no jeering him or booing him simply because he was better than their players. There was no talk of him disrespecting the opposition because his fancy feet left their defenders in knots.

Sadly, too many supporters love to see their team kick players like Ronaldo in to the stands, and even more sad, is that too many referees are allowing it to continue on happening. Ferguson has had the bottle to complain about Hacket for not doing his job properly and he received a charge from the FA for doing so. So what exactly does have to happen for the referees in this country to do their job properly?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. jsos says:

    as you mentioned we had our part in today’s result, most definitely – but today Riley and his sleeping linesmen were an absolute JOKE! The handballs! The blatant fouls! Was there ever a question?? Could they have occurred any closer to the officials?? Can someone please buy these refs a clue?

    Didn’t even think riley was watching the same match as I was today. Fucking ridiculous. But we left with a point and we’re still 3 pts clear. A speedy recovery to Rio and keep the red flag flying high.

  2. Prasac says:

    we can’t win all our games playing with ten men vs eleven.
    Giggs is handicap every game he plays and that’s sad true.

  3. mason says:

    y do we keep playing giggs when 90% of his passes r usually to members of the opp team….i still think taking off tevez instead of giggs was the biggest mistake after already having played o’shea as a central defender in the first half

  4. Kaushalendra says:

    I agree with Prasac , Giggs is making us handicap. Either nani or anderson should play in his place. I have been observing this for so many matches. Giggs is definitely hampering the movement and is nowhere near accuracy when finishing chances.

  5. Lorence Gopal says:

    I totally agree that Giggs has passed his best. Its just a shame that a player of his quality continue to play because he is nowhere near to play in the starting eleven of United. He should take his responsiblity and retire. For the match of today, I think that Sir Alex should have opted for Pique instead of O’shea.

  6. ross says:

    giggs is past his best but you only say this when its an important game and we drop some points???? where were you all throughout the season dont remember him playing badly every game. ever just thought its the end of the season hes old and tired. and its showing more than the other players simply cos theyre younger give the guy a break. few more appearances and a champions league and he will retire. but saying that you all probably are fed up of fergie too and want him to go .
    what about neville when he returs will u turn on him too?

  7. jsos says:

    whats the giggs convo got to do with riley? i think where we succeeded today, we did it as a team and where we failed, we did it in defense. putting it down to giggs is off the mark, imo

    and riley is the disgrace, not giggs

  8. DanS says:

    I can’t see the standard of refereeing improving any time soon – and linesman don’t seem to be doing anything in the game apart from helping with offside decisions (which they get wrong).

    Yes the game is played at a high tempo and the officials are only human – but for crying out loud – train harder and improve your fitness, vision and judgement making.

    How can you not give a handball when the offence takes place right in front of you?

    Is the answer to use foreign referee’s? Although i’m sure the foreign leagues wouldn’t want our guys ha ha.

  9. Tom F says:

    The main point about this Blog that gets me too is the way opposition fans love when a player like Ronaldo gets fouled. I blame the press for the way players are hounded these days. Obviously Ronaldo came here as a kid and brought with him the mentality of going down easy to win free-kicks, which almost every player does in leagues like those in Portugal. This does not in any way make it right for thugs like Michael Ball to attack a player, the same as you have no right to punch somebody in the face as you walk past them in the street.

    How does everyone feel about the result? 3 points ahead of Chelsea isn’t the worst position, as long as we get a draw at Stamford bridge we can afford to lose at least one game if we win the rest. Tough, but I hope we can do it. Losing Vida and Ferdinand in a week is a massive hit.

  10. james f says:

    You could see the Boro players becoming more and more aggressive during the game, knowing that they would never be punished for that.
    I wouldn’t blame Ronaldo if he left this summer for Spain. How much can a player take before packing his things and leaving forever?
    Anyway, Chelsea’s little team will be exposed when we visit them in a few weeks’ time, and this championship will be the sweetest of all.

  11. DanS says:

    This talk of Ronaldo leaving cos he’s being hacked down is pathetic.

    As if he wouldn’t be subject to hacking in other leagues. He is, if not, the best player in the world – players are going to hack you if they can’t get the ball.

  12. Stephen says:

    Loosing our f irst choice centre backs is going to be a massive loss. O’Shea was awfull today I just hope Rio is Ok. Bit harsh on Giggs he didnt play well but Ronnie was poor today and Anderson has not been playing well recently either. You are the same people who were getting on Scholes back a few weeks ago and why does Fergie always take off Carlito when we need a goal? I know it worked today but it didnt against Portsmouth he eems the easy option.

  13. Peter says:

    I am not a fan of either team, but was looking ob the net for comments about the referee after watching the match. I thought he got lots of things right for both sides and lots of things wrong for both sides. One of the bookings for Middlesbrough was harsh, and another tackle got nothing when it should have been a booking.
    I just think the refereeing is too inconsistent: the ‘handball’ that wasn’t given was accidental, as was Ferdinands which wasn’t given either, as was that one that Middlesbrough did have given against them a while ago at Villa(?)
    Mascherano got rightly sent off for persistently abusing the ref, yet Cole got away with murder.

    By the way, I don’t think the Middlesbrough fans will be impressed with the argument for them not getting enough bookings yesterday as I seem to remember they have one of the highest ratios of bookings to fouls committed in the league. (no I don’t have the stats, I read it in a newspaper a few weeks ago, can’t remember which one)

    Anyway my point is this, from a neutral viewpoint, refereeing was slightly dodgy and very inconsistent, both teams could have won but didn’t, a draw seemed a fair result.

  14. terminaljunkie says:

    Good job the ref was able to spot all those Boro fouls and none of United’s though eh?

    Football is a sport not a dance, get used to a bit of jostling.

  15. jsos says:

    stephen – i agree with the confusion about taking off tevez. however, i do think he is more successful at snagging the goals when he, instead of starting and playing til the end, comes on later and pulls an Ole move with the late goal.

    all around though, both tevez and park run their ASSES off for us from the second they step onto the pitch to the second they are taken off. never lacking for effort out there and i appreciate that.

    and park is about to become our new golden boy. i think its about time he got a new chant :D

  16. John says:

    Good to know the linesmen are fully aware of the rules which state they should give the benefit to the attacking player.

    yes only when he is actually close to being onside,

    yes some of our tackling was dangerous, some deliberate, some stupid (arca on ronaldo)
    but looking at it the other way, we had two questionable penalties not given (o’shea hand-ball, ferdinand push on downing), and what about rooney taking out schwarzer, considering hunt on cech last season, that should have been a stragith red after the back-chat

  17. jsos says:

    John and terminjunkie, you all played like the weaker side you are. I dont dispute we deserved a draw, but your fouls were deliberate acts of desperation for lack of skill on the pitch. Once you realized you wouldn’t get penalized, you kicked up the fouling even more. Guess that’s why you’re nobodies and we’re champions.

  18. Scott the Red says:

    Rooney taking out Schwarzer? You aren’t being serious, surely? He had every right to go for that ball and wasn’t far off winning it either. His studs feet didn’t make contact with the keeper, just his upper body, after the wet ground carried him through. And the keeper made a meal out of it (which is funny considering the abuse Boro fans dish out to Ronaldo!) To compare that to Hunt challenging with his knee, on Cech’s head which broke his skull, is moronic.

  19. UnitedBlogger says:

    Well, Riley is not the brightest of the lot now, is he? You can expect him to have games like this more often than not. As you point out, II don’t think he had a huge impact on the game yesterday. The conditions were horrible, Tevez never got into the game, and as expected when our central defensive partnership is broken, we suffer. Fergie help us if both Rio and Vidic have to miss Roma/Arsenal.

  20. Tom F says:

    Anderson, 19 years old had an instant impact for United after getting his chance to shine due to Scholes’ absence.

    Gerrard Pique, now 21? Has been at the club for almost 4 years. He came here from Barca in the hope of getting more first team chances yet has only been in the first team a few times here and there. He is a solid, strong defender with obvious talent and if we are missing our irreplacable Ferdinand and Vida then I really think it is Piques time to shine. Oh, and don’t forget his 100% goal scoring record in the Chmapions League this season!!! :)

  21. Whiteside10 says:

    Time for technology, me thinks… Everyone’s agreed – the quality of refereeing in this country is shocking. There’s no consistency – not just game-to-game but even within games… and this is throughout the Prem – not just with United. The game’s faster nowadays, there’s more money involved, so why they can’t introduce even basic video technology is beyond me. They can do it in Rugby League, so why not in footie?
    As for United’s league chances, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about just yet – I would’ve taken a three-point lead with a vastly superior goal difference at this stage of the season any day of the week. United still need to drop points in at least two more games for Chelsea to overtake them, and that’s not including the game between the two, which Chelsea will have to win (which I don’t think they will)…


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