After Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid last night, the main discussions haven't been on the performance of the teams.
Instead we are talking about the performance of the officials - and it would be a nice change if we could have just one season where the officials were up to scratch in every tournament.
United, after going 1-0 up courtesy of a Sergio Ramos own goal, were defeated 2-1 at Old Trafford to an absolutely stunning Luca Modric goal, and the ex-United player, Cristiano Ronaldo coming back to score his second goal in two games against his former club since leaving in 2009. However, the discussions post-match weren't of the quality of football from two of the World's best football teams, instead, of the referee's decision to send of United's Luis Nani after a high-footed 'kung-fu' kick style tackle on Madrid's Álvaro Arbeloa.
In the heat of the moment, I can understand why the Turkish referee, Cuneyt Cakir, who sent off Chelsea's John Terry in last years Champions League semi-final vs. Barcelona, would have seen the tackle as a tackle worthy of a dismissal, however, almost straight after whilst watching the events replayed, the decision was undenably questionable. Nani's eyes were on the ball during it's descent, and there is no doubt he was 100% committed to controlling the ball - and the level of contact the Portuguese winger made with Árbeloa was minimal, and about 9 out of 10 of tackles of that nature would go unpunished.
Manchester United were looking favorites to proceed to the next round of the Champions League at the time of the dismissal, as they were leading Real Madrid 1-0 and looking the stronger team, even Real manager José Mourinho claimed, in his post match interview, that the best team lost and that had there been 11 United players on the pitch, he doesn't think his team would have progressed. It's unequivocal that the dismissal was a pivotal moment in the tie, and we come to the point that the officiating of a top level match (again) is not up to the standard it should be.
It's hardly like we've never seen this sort of thing before, infact, quite the contrary - referees have been the subject of much debate over recent, and I have no doubt that we have not heard the last on this matter, especially when United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, talks to the press. The 71-year-old refused to talk to the referee, or the press, after his team's exit last night, as assistant manager, Mike Phelan said: "It’s a distraught dressing room and a distraught manager and that’s why I’m sitting here in front of you now".
The decision to send of Nani has overshadowed a great match at the very top level of the game, and as much as I disagree with the reaction that United defender, Rio Ferdinand, who clapped sarcastically in the face of the Turkish ref at the final whistle, something needs to be done - it's decisions like these that are spoiling the beautiful game, and the time for change came a long time ago.
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