One year ago, when Kenny Dalglish made his return at the manager position with Liverpool, he saw Steven Gerrard sent off because of a dive which got Howard Webb to use his highly unstable sense of judgement and send Gerrard off. Manchester United enjoyed Chris Foy’s terrible decision making to help them beat Manchester City 3-2 in the FA Cup.
Vincent Kompany’s slide was dangerous, but he shouldn’t have been sent off. The didn’t change Foy’s mind, who didn’t stop to think but just reacted, instinctively, like we don’t want out officials to behave. City were already 1-0 down at that point, and things quickly went South from there.
If Wayne Rooney’s header wasn’t enough, Danny Welbeck’s crazy goal made us sense that this was going to be a revenge match of some sort. When Wayne Rooney scored the rebound off of his own penalty kick, making it 3-0 for Manchester United, at City’s own ground, after only 40 minutes, I was sure of it.
But then half time came, and a few things came to light. United aren’t what they used to be, and instead of pummeling City they just withdrew and invited attacks. Problems is, if Alex Ferguson seemed to forget, is that he doesn’t have a good enough defense to hold on to leads without going through trouble. Rio Ferdinand spoke this week about how United’s mentality changed after their 6-1 defeat to City. From an ultra-attacking, adventurous outfit, back to cautious, boring, yet efficient. Style doesn’t account for wins.
Aleksandar Kolarov scored a beautiful free kick to put United in full panic mode, and Sergio Aguero pounced first at a bad parry by Anders Lindegaard to make it 3-2. The stadium was hectic, and so was the pace on the pitch. United looked clueless, frightened even to actually go into the extra gear needed to finish the game. Instead, they just hung back, inviting that equalizing goal and a cup replay. Luckily for them, not due to skill, it didn’t come.
Manchester United don’t play like confident, proud champions, because Ferguson knows his team is inferior to Mancini when it comes to skill and depth. He doesn’t have a goalkeeper he can really trust and every time he thinks he’s figured out how to fill the Vidic hole, someone else slips out of form. A strong United, confident of its ability, would have finished this game. Not this United.
City? They won’t defend their FA Cup, but their goals are different this season. Without any Champions League matches left, it’s all about the league, where they have a three point lead. But United proved they can win at the Etihad, despite the controversial circumstances, which will provide a mental boost as the season and the title race progresses, with another stop at City’s ground pretty soon.
Last word about Foy? We couldn’t help ourselves. I don’t know if a referee in the booth with a TV would have helped, but these aren’t the decisions we need replays for. Goals should come first, and we’re probably years from that happening as well.
Common sense and actually understanding what you’re seeing should be first and foremost in the referee’s skills set. Too many times these don’t appear for refs on big matches. To make matters worse, they spiral into this “making amends” mode by trying to appease the team they screwed over with more bad decisions. Teams deserve better, and we as fans deserve better.