Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United need to be more streetwise in their dealings with referees.
A match delegator’s report on United’s 2-1 defeat by Sheffield United last week concluded Kean Bryan’s opening goal should have been disallowed due to a push by Billy Sharp on David de Gea, and that Harry Maguire should not have been penalised for his challenge with Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. Ramsdale fumbled the ball, which was swept in by Anthony Martial, but the referee Peter Brookes blew the whistle for a foul.
Victor Lindelof’s own goal against Everton at Old Trafford in December 2019 was allowed to stand despite a push on De Gea amid no appeals from United. A month later, De Gea went so ballistic he was booked at Anfield after Roberto Firmino scored following Virgil van Dijk’s aerial challenge with the United keeper and the Video Assistant Referee decided to chalk off the goal
Last month, United were denied an apparently legitimate goal at Burnley and a probable penalty at Fulham, but their players were not vehement in contesting the decisions.
Solskjaer was sat on the bench in January 2000 when his United teammates infamously confronted Andy D’Urso after he incorrectly adjudged Jaap Stam to have fouled Juninho and gave Middlesbrough a penalty. D’Urso was backed into a literal corner – almost ending up by the flag – by Stam, Roy Keane, Nicky Butt and David Beckham and Solskjaer discouraged his players resorting to such extremes.
“I think whenever a team feels unfairly treated there will be reaction but I have no problem with human error,” Solskjaer stressed. “Absolutely no problem. And I understand why the decisions were made.
“Unfortunately, they went against us and they were wrong. That’s football for you but that’s maybe what VAR should have been in for.
“Maybe we should have made more of a fuss about it. We are a bunch of nice lads. Maybe we should have really hung on to [the ball] or made them look at it before the game started again, so those are things that we have to learn from and use as motivation or energy. You are not going to expect to get anything for free.
“There has been a narrative for too long about the decisions we have got for us and I can look at many decisions this season that we feel [went against us]. Even the first league game, Victor [Lindelof’s handball against Crystal Palace] they agreed on that one. That wasn’t a penalty. But that doesn’t change where we are now. We just move on.
“The phrase here is clear and obvious so, when it’s a debate, it’s still not clear and obvious. I felt the Harry one was clear and obvious – it should have been a goal. The other one could be debatable. We just have to leave it to the referees to make decisions.
“I don’t want my players to put too much [pressure on them]. Not too much but unfair pressure on the referees, we leave them to it. That’s their job, so I don’t really want to talk about that too much.”