What direction is football heading in? Sunday afternoon was supposed to be a feast of world class football; a battle between the titans; Manchester United versus Chelsea.
Instead, Howard Webb and his team of assistant referees were determined to leave their own mark on the game, and for that reason football was robbed of one of its great goals.
In case you missed it, on the stroke of halftime Manchester United had a corner kick. Wayne Rooney nonchalantly placed the ball in the corner spot, then nudged it just outside, calling Giggs over to “take the corner.” Instead, Rooney’s nonchalant touch actually placed the ball in play, and while Chelsea were still setting up (planning for Giggs to take the kick), Giggs dribbled the ball towards the Chelsea net before crossing for Ronaldo to power a header into the back of the net.
Howard Webb called the goal off, as the assistant was sleeping at work and didn’t pay attention to Rooney’s touch. Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed this was a planned set piece play, saying “we’ve worked on that. When you work at it and it’s disallowed because the linesman’s not watching it’s disappointing.”
On Sky’s “The Last Word”, former referee Dermot Gallagher confirmed the goal should have stood, saying Wayne Rooney’s touch made the ball live, as it completed more than one revolution.
As a fan of the beautiful game, it’s disappointing to see referees directly influence valid play. It only makes us fans wonder what we could see if refs were more competent. Ronaldo scored yet another perfectly legitimate goal in the Chelsea match, but it was incorrectly ruled offsides (even though camera replays prove conclusively that he was on – just look at the lines in the grass). Nonetheless, justice was served.
Luckily for United and for Howard Webb, United scored off the replay of the corner kick, as Ryan Giggs crossed into a Nemanja Vidic header.
If you’d like to see a clip of the brilliant set-piece play, go here. Unfortunately, that particular camera didn’t catch Rooney’s touch, but you can see Giggs catch Chelsea off guard.