With over 20 minutes to play and United playing City off the park at Wastelands, we were looking for our second goal to kill the bluenoses off. Robinho was in 18-year-old Rafael Da Silva’s pocket throughout the match, whilst Steven Ireland and Dietmar YSB Hamann no contest for the impressive Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher.
So when the ball was floated in to the box from the corner spot and Ronaldo found himself a bit of room, you’d be entitled to think this was our chance to double our lead, but for some reason, it all went horribly wrong.
Ronaldo made a pigs ear of his header but rather than play continuing, the referee looked none too pleased. Ronaldo looked puzzled whilst our surrounding players started to look panicked. Was Ronnie getting sent off here?
Replays then showed Ronaldo touching the ball with both hands, pushing it to the ground. It was bizarre. He wasn’t trying to score, that much was obvious, but why hadn’t he just got his head on the ball?
After the game, it was revealed that Ronnie thought he heard a whistle being blown, the actions of which he was miming to Howard Webb.
“He thought he heard the whistle,” said Ferguson. “It’s not as if he’s thrown a hand at the ball to deflect it away or punch it towards goal. If it had been outside the box, the referee would just have given a free-kick, nothing else. The crowd played their part of course and he got sent off. Sometimes you just have to overcome things and we overcame a lot today. Winning with ten men is a difficult task away from home and we did that well today.”
The ref was having none of it though, eager to show him a second yellow card and send Ronaldo off.
You would think that this would be a case where the referee has to use his common sense. Essentially though, Webb was desperate to send off Ronaldo after his sarcastic applause of the decision to book him. Ronaldo had got some of the ball and some of the player when challenging Shaun Wright-Phillips. Now, if every player who tackled Ronaldo from behind, winning the ball but also kicking the player, was dished out a yellow card, then maybe it would have been an easier decision for our winger to take. However, this isn’t the case.
Ronaldo tested Webb’s nerve. Would the referee give a second yellow for dissent, as referee Kim Milton Nielsen did to Rooney in 2005? No, he wouldn’t. But would he pounce on any opportunity to even the score? Certainly, which is exactly what we saw Webb do when Ronaldo handballed. Ludicrous and moronic behaviour from a ref deemed to be one of the best in the country.
Then Alan bitter Shearer gets on MOTD 2, claiming that the red card decision was “a bit harsh” but that the referee was right to do it, following the rules to the letter of the law. Is that so, Mr Shearer?
Law 12 of FIFA’s Laws of the Game 2008/09 says a free-kick or penalty will be awarded if a player ‘handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).’
The much-used term ‘deliberate handball’ is misleading, since to be an offence under the laws of the game a handball must, by definition, be deliberate. A ‘deliberate’ handball is not a booking, then – unless every handball the referee blows up for is a booking.
The guidelines that FIFA publish to accompany the laws state that ‘there are circumstances when a caution for unsporting behaviour is required when a player deliberately handles the ball, e.g. when a player deliberately and blatantly handles the ball to prevent an opponent gaining possession or attempts to score a goal by deliberately handling the ball.’
Ronaldo didn’t handball to deny City gaining possession and he clearly wasn’t trying to score with his hands. I was asking for common sense refereeing but that doesn’t even have to be the case. It’s not common sense we’re looking for here, just a referee that will follow the guidelines laid out by FIFA. Is that too much to ask for?