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The Clattenburg & Nani Controversy

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Before I get into this let’s get one thing straight. Mark Clattenburg’s decision, or no decision as the case may be, didn’t cost Spurs 3 points on Saturday. It was another abject performance from a Tottenham side at Old Trafford, but I’ll get on to that later today in another post because quite rudely my boss has asked me to do some work. First let’s deal with the only thing anyone’s talking about and another controversial decision that many will blame our defeat on.

I said on Friday I thought it was time to stop blaming others and using excuses for our results and the way we play when we visit the “Theatre of Dreams”. Unfortunately it looks like we’ll have to wait another year before we can do that which is unfortunate. Lets go through it step-by-step.

Was it a penalty on Nani? I’ve seen them given. There was a slight tug on his shirt by Kaboul but not enough to make him go down, a second later he tumbled to the ground. If it’s not a penalty then it’s a dive and a yellow card. It’s one or the other. I’m not saying it was this or that because even with replays neither possibility is conclusive but when the ref nor linesman gave the penalty, then it’s an automatic booking for simulation. We should note at this point there were only claims by Nani and no other United players.

So when a penalty’s not given, play should’ve been stopped and a yellow card brandished to Nani. When Nani fell to the ground he then blatantly handled the ball as many players do nowadays when they believe they’ve been obviously fouled. If you watch the replays I can actually see how Clattenburg might not have seen the handball because there were players in the way but the linesman not only saw it he admitted as much to Gomes later on in the dramatical piece. So why didn’t he flag then? Again, another automatic booking for Nani isn’t it for deliberate handball?

If you’re a United fan ready this, please don’t feel like I’m being very anti Nani or United here. Read on and then make your assumptions. All I’m saying is a linesman has the very simple job of alerting a referee of incidents like handball. If he was doing his job, none of this would’ve happened, we would’ve lost 1-0 and we’d be talking about how we played and how we can improve. He didn’t do his job correctly and the problems started from there.

So we’ve now got 2 points in a 10 second period when by the laws of the game the referee and linesman should’ve worked together and play stopped. From that moment on, there is only one mistake by the referee albeit a simple but very important one.

Gomes assumed it was a free kick. I’ve seen and heard lots of comments about how he was taking it 10 yards away from the correct spot but that’s neither here nor there as when was the last time you saw a keeper take a free kick from behind his 6 yard box no matter where the incident happened? The same can be said for outfield players and free kicks. Everyone except Nani, who at this point is getting to his feet after winning a frustrated fight with the ground, is running into position expecting Gomes to launch the ball forward. Fletcher can be seen very clearly telling Nani to get back and cover in case Gomes decided to play it short.

This is where the confusion begins and what I believe it a paramount problem in today’s game. Sportsmanship. Everyone and I mean everyone has said play to the whistle. It’s an old footballing adage and had Nani not been the only one to do it on Saturday Clattenburg would’ve had a fairly uneventful evening. However, when does playing to the whistle suddenly become unsporting behaviour? As I said, it was clear as day to everyone that there were 21 players on that pitch who believed the ball was dead, no matter what they come out and say after the match to the TV cameras. My problem is when Nani went to the ball he didn’t know it was live. He asks the referee which means he’s assumed it’s not really live but there’s a chance it might be. After taking a chance and scoring, he then looks at the ref to make sure it’s ok. He was trying it on and got away with it. On another day he could get booked.

The big, glaring error Clattenburg made was shrugging his shoulders. The penalty decision could’ve been given or not, it was a judgement call. He may not have seen the handball, which was the linesman’s fault. All he had to do was make the universal footballing signal for play on. If he does that so everyone knows what’s going on there’s no problem. Instead he stood there shrugging his shoulders as if to say, “I haven’t blown the whistle so do what you want” which by the letter of the law was what happened but it was clear given even Nani was asking that there was confusion for everyone.

Common sense should’ve prevailed in this situation. After giving the goal the linesman who I can only presume had fallen asleep put his flag up. He quite clearly agree’s with Gomes that there was a handball and he believed it was a free kick. That was Clattenburg’s chance. Discuss matters with the linesman, realise there was quite clearly confusion among everyone involved and call it back for a free kick like everyone thought it was.

We would’ve more than likely still lost 1-0 and I’m not going to say we might’ve got a late equaliser because if we’re honest we didn’t look like doing that at any point in the rest of the game so why should anyone think the last 5 minutes would be any different?

I’d like to finish this Clattenburg fiasco by commenting on something I read on a United site courtesy of DML. Every team gets decisions for and against them. It’s football and it’s one of the reason’s I’m against video technology. One, even with video replays it’s not always a conclusive yes or no answer and two, without these “human errors” what would we have to talk about?

However, to suggest our goals against Stoke and Fulham are in the same league as what happened on Saturday just stinks of ignorance and trying to justify the incident. Let’s go with the Stoke one first. Was it over the line or not? It’s not possible to tell. It wasn’t definitely over the line. It was very close but you couldn’t say from the replays, yes, that’s over. It’s the same as the penalty decision just before Nani’s goal. Some would give it, others wouldn’t. Onto Fulham. I believe Huddlestone’s winner was offside. Not because that’s what the laws say but because I can’t see how anyone in the 6 yard box isn’t interfering with play, so I believe the laws are wrong, not the decision. I’m not even going to entertain Ferdinand’s reasoning behind the goal of would we have complained had we scored from a corner that wasn’t a corner. Of course we wouldn’t have done but that doesn’t make it right. I can only imagine what would’ve happened had Nani’s goal been scored by Pav at the other end. Players surrounding and pushing the ref, Ferguson on the pitch, lots of finger pointing and red faces. Fuming interviews and FA charges. It would’ve been bedlam in Manchester.

On a lighter note, the 2-0 scoreline won me £130. You can always rely on Spurs at Old Trafford.



  1. Tom

    November 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    A total farce. Blame really lies on the ref, and Gomes. Agree that its either a freekick for handball OR a penalty. However, as neither was given and the whistle wasnt blown, Nani had every right to put it in the net, but Gomes shouldnt have assumed it was a freekick, or he should have kept hold of it and waited for confirmation. The linesman obviously didnt help but not putting his flag up, then putting it up after Nani scored, then putting it down again……..didnt Ronaldo get sent off for a second yellow a couple of years ago for deliberate handball when he thought he heard a whistle that wasnt actually blown?

  2. David Hammons

    November 2, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Sorry, but the placement of the ball, if inside the six, goes on the next horizontal line, which would have been the line of the six-yard box. So if we are going to split hair then Gomes needs to go into the book for unsportsman like behavoir, because he was conning his way into an advantage.
    Secondly, it was not a handball, and that term does not exist in the sport. It is handling of the ball, which Nani did, like most players in today’s modern game do to allow the referee more time to make a decision. However, as I mentioned in my “Crying Out For Changes” article, Paul Scholes immediately appealed for the penalty, which should have been given, and that blocked Clattenburg’s view of Nani’s foul.
    As mentioned above, there are two culprits here – Gomes and Simon Beck, not Nani or Clattenburg. They are called assistant referee’s for a reason – to assist with the play, which he did not do.

    Let’s face THFC1882, Harry Redknapp did not want to win this game, if he did Crouch and RP would have been from the start, and instead we saw his priorities were with your match tomorrow. Sorry, there are no excuse for him or your club to why you have extended your 20+ years of misery at Old Trafford. Maybe next year ….

    Spot on, Tom about Ronaldo in Manchester derby a few years ago. Webb sent him off for a second bookable offense.

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