Manchester United's controversial Champions League exits

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Last week’s second-leg tie between Manchester United and Real Madrid in the last 16 round of the Champions League ended in controversy after Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir decided to show Nani a red card shortly after the Red Devils scored to break the deadlock.

Real Madrid went on to score two vital goals against a ten-man United, propelling themselves into the quarter-finals.

Whether Nani deserved to be sent off or not is still disputed, but there's no doubt the decision had a huge impact on the outcome of the match.  

Whatever the case, this isn't the first time United fans have had a reason to feel they have been wronged by a referee in a crucial Champions League match. To be precise, out of their last ten campaigns, four have ended with controversial exits, counting the most recent against Real Madrid.

Manchester United vs FC Porto | 2003/04

After losing in Portugal, United went into the second leg with a 2-1 deficit.

Paul Scholes gave the hosts the lead by heading the ball past Vitor Baia in the 31st minute. Just as the first half was coming to a close, Scholes scored once more, but the goal was ruled out, as the linesman waved offside. The replays showed without a doubt that the assistant referee got it wrong.

Porto went on to score a crucial goal in injury time, sending them through on a 3-2 aggregate, and ended up winning the competition.

Who knows what would have happened if Scholes’ goal wasn’t disallowed, but a 2-0 lead with 45 minutes left on the clock certainly wouldn’t have hurt United’s chances of progressing to the next round. One might argue that it easily could have been Alex Ferguson’s men lifting the trophy that year.

Chelsea vs Barcelona | 2008/09

Even though United played no part in this match, it still had a huge effect on their campaign.

After holding Barcelona to a goalless draw at the Camp Nou, Chelsea took the lead early at Stanford Bridge.

From that point on the referee made a few questionable decisions costing the Blues a place in the finals. Two blatant fouls and two hand-balls in the box weren’t enough for him to award the hosts a single penalty.clear

Barcelona managed to equalise in injury time, unfairly knocking the blues out of the competition and went on to beat United in the final. 

The Red Devils would have surely had a better chance against Chelsea in the final, seeing as they beat the Blues 3-0 at Old Trafford and drew 1-1 at Stanford Bridge that season in the Premier League.

Is it wrong to say the referee’s controversial decisions hurt United just as much as they hurt Chelsea?

Manchester United vs Bayern Munich | 2009/10

United took the lead in Germany, but ended up losing the first leg 2-1.

However, the match at Old Trafford couldn’t have started better for the Red Devils seeing as goals from Gibson and Nani had United 2-0 up after only seven minutes.

Nani scored another in the 41st minute but Olic pulled one back just before half time, giving the Germans a glimmer of hope.

Ferguson’s men had a good result and were controlling the game before the referee showed Rafael his second yellow card for slightly pulling a Bayern Munich player near the center of the pitch. Much like United’s recent game against Real Madrid, the game was turned upside-down. After the young Brazilian was controversially sent off, the German team scored their second goal.

The two-legged tie ended in a 4-4 aggregate and Bayern went through to the semi-final on away goals.


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