April 21, 2021

Man Utd

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Four dodgy decisions have stitched Manchester United up this season

4 min read

Supporters are fully accustomed to the good, bad and ugly when it comes to high-profile refereeing decisions.

When you factor in the introduction of VAR, though, you can rule out that first section for the most part!

Having been installed in the Premier League ahead of the 2019/2020 campaign, there have been a huge number of contentious calls made by officials – under guidance from the much-maligned system.

Interpretation and the enforcement of particular rules have come under the microscope, too, but where have they left Manchester United so far this season?

We’ve all heard the lame jokes about penalties awarded to United, but here we take a closer look at the key moments which have gone against Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side.

West Brom vs United (February 14)

Back in mid-February, the title race was still on, even as champions elect Manchester City launched into a simply astonishing winning run.

United headed to the Hawthorns looking to close the gap at the top of the table to five points.

However, after going behind to early an strike from Mbaye Diagne, they ultimately lost further ground on City as VAR reared its ugly head – albeit not necessarily in the obvious manner.

Bruno Fernandes had put United back on level terms following that surprise opener, but their chances of earning three points from the penalty spot were, controversially, overturned.

It came after England defender Harry Maguire was initially deemed to have been fouled by Semi Ajayi.

Standing in what was a seemingly offside position, the Maguire incident was overturned as referee Craig Pawson took a look at his pitchside monitor, before offering a u-turn on his initial stance.

However, while pundits argued cases both for and against, it was the process – by which referee Pawson ignored the geography involved – which most sparked debate and confusion.

Burnley vs United (January 12)

Now, where to start on this one?

Soon after the turn of the year, United headed to Turf Moor, where they will have been expecting the customary physical challenge from Sean Dyche’s well-drilled Burnley side.

They might not, though, have been anticipating such a controversial double, or triple, decision.

In one sense, United got away with one against the Clarets, but in another – at least in days gone by – they had a genuine case to argue Burnley should have been reduced to ten-men.

During a jaw-dropping 10 minutes or so, recalled England defender Luke Shaw launched into a challenge which put Johann Gudmundsson on the floor – in considerable pain.

No sooner than the dust had settled on that, Robbie Brady brought down Edinson Cavani at the other end, as the Uruguayan striker raced through on goal.

Kevin Friend, referee on that day, checked his monitor after VAR Stuart Attwell had flagged up the two incidents in question, before coming to a bizarre conclusion.

Shaw was shown a yellow card when it could, and might, have been red, while Brady escaped punishment as his misdemeanour occurred during the same passage of play. Work that one out!

Maguire later found himself on a favourable side of a handball debate, but in truth it was no more than a footnote, given what had happened earlier in the piece.

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Crystal Palace (September 19)

According to the official figures collated about VAR decisions, United have been involved in 15 overturned calls so far this season – but only one of them has led to a goal being conceded.

Indeed, that came via the penalty spot against Palace at Old Trafford in September.

Inspired by former United winger Wilfried Zaha, the Londoners earned a memorable 3-1 victory on their latest visit to Manchester – but it was not without controversy.

Requiring VAR intervention, Palace were eventually awarded a spot-kick when Victor Lindelof was deemed to be the guilty party for ‘handball’ in the area.

David de Gea saved the initial penalty from Jordan Ayew, only for technology to highlight encroachment and Zaha promptly tucked away the retaken penalty to define a 3-1 opening day verdict.


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United vs Manchester City (December 12)

Under the pressure of a Manchester derby, especially one thought to have significance in the Premier League title race, there was always going to be a high-profile refereeing decision that came to the fore.

Unfortunately for United, it went against them on this occasion.

Solksjaer’s side enjoyed much of the play during a goalless draw at Old Trafford in December, without being able to create that telling opportunity to claim the bragging rights.

However, but for VAR, they might have been presented a golden chance from the 12 yards.

After racing through, academy graduate Marcus Rashford was tripped in the City area. However, while the spot kick was initially given, that was ultimately overturned by a marginal offside call.

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