On Referees and the Premier League Title Race

Danny Murphy was fouled by Michael Carrick at the 89th minute during Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Fulham, putting them 3 points ahead of Manchester City, with eight matches left to play. Michael Oliver, as many referees tend to do when their job is at the Old Trafford, loses his ability to blow the whistle at times.

There’s no great conspiracy, but there’s some sort of effect in that stadium. Maybe it’s the respect to Alex Ferguson and everything that Manchester United have achieved over the years. It’s probably just lack of guts to make the right call at a difficult hour, not wanting Rio Ferdinand all up in your face. Again, it’s hard to explain or understand, but these things keep happening.

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Not that Fulham deserved to win, or even come away with a point. United were bad because Fulham didn’t even try and make it hard on them, and still failed to score more than once. Wayne Rooney can’t stop scoring, but eventually, because the game was so bad and decided by only one goal, we’ll remember the non-call on Murphy more than anything else.

Having Alex Ferguson half admitting that there was a penalty against his own team isn’t something that happens every day, which might tell us of how clear of decision it should have been, and how terribly Oliver did in his decision to remain quiet.

(The penalty debate at 15:00)

I would like to say Oliver was far away from the incident, but he was about 10 yards behind them, with no obstructions in the way, and would clearly see that Carrick fouled Murphy. I guess he didn’t think it was the case. Then why not book Murphy for diving? It had to be diving if it wasn’t a foul, right, at this particular case? And is this a case for TV officials to interfere? Stop the match, call out Oliver on his mistake and give Fulham the penalty? I’m pretty Mancini would be happy with that.

Mancini himself has been quiet after the 1-1 draw against Stoke City. These matches at the Britannia don’t usually play out well for teams looking for initiative. Stoke flourish on long balls and over-aggressive football. Pulis can talk all he wants too about the English game being different from the European game. He has a violent team, and referees at these matches allow them too much. It doesn’t only happen with big calls, but consistently letting them get away with fouls all through the match.

Roberto Mancini has more than one reason to be happy about playing at home against United next month, but at this rate beating the league leaders won’t really matter because the gap will be too big to close down.