The Manchester derby never fails to disappoint. Football fans were left speechless last night after Manchester United came back from 2 goals down against Premier League rivals, Manchester City to deny them winning the title on their own turf. As expected, the game was filled with rash challenges, animosity, and drama. Although today was a night for United to remember, referee, Martin Atkinson will not be taking a look at the highlights any time soon as fans are fuming with the number of wrong calls he made.
The Manchester Derby highlights the need for VAR
In a game of such magnitude, there is no choice but for the referee to be on his game. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Atkinson had his first shocker of the night early in the first half when Ashley Young slipped inside United’s box. Atkinson was deaf to any of the City appeals, waving off claims that Young’s hand made contact with the ball. Although the referee didn’t have the best of angles to witness the incident, once he has a look at the replay, there is no debate that a penalty should’ve been awarded in City’s favor. The pressure on the referees these days is immense and this emphasizes the need for the VAR in all games. It is understood that VAR does have it’s flaws, however, the more it is used, the faster it will develop and eradicate mistakes from the game. There is no doubt, that if this incident were to be reviewed by VAR, the correct decision would have pushed the game forward.
Another incident that should’ve gone differently was against Fernandinho, arguably City’s best player of the night. As the game progressed, tensions heightened and players began losing their patience. In the 79th minute, we saw a very rash challenge committed by Fernandinho in retaliation to the lack of punishment following Ander Herrera’s antics after a light foul by Gabriel Jesus. The tackle was harsh and could’ve been either a red or yellow, but it was Fernandinho’s reaction that should have sent him off. Following the tackle a little brawl sparked amongst certain players, the Brazillian was aggressively pleading to the ref regarding his challenge. We have seen harsh punishments for appeals with referees and this further magnifies the inconsistency amongst refs in the Premier League, and world football in general. The implementation of VAR here would provide a sense of consistency and redefine what constitutes a red or yellow card.
Lastly, the main talking point that has angered City fans, is Ashley Young’s two footed studs up tackle on substitute, Sergio Aguero. Similarly to earlier in the game, Atkinson disregarded any of City’s appeals and waved the game on. Although Young’s intentions were to get the ball, his studs were up and connected with Aguero’s shin, stonewall penalty. Atkinson failed to notice this and as a result, has caused outrage amongst City fans. Former United defender Gary Neville, came out after the game to criticise Atkinson and his decision, by saying not only should that be a penalty, but a red card as well.
Atkinson’s shambolic performance tonight is proof as to why no English referees are going to be at the World Cup this year and only highlights the desperate need for VAR in all competitions.
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