Liverpool had the shot count on their side, holding Manchester United to their second fewest of the season. And for a long time, they had the score on their side. Then, late in the second half, Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalised for host United. It was a goal that never should have counted according to England’s former top referee.
“Manchester United benefited from an error by assistant referee Mick McDonough,” Howard Webb told The Times today. “Positioning is everything as an assistant referee and he is not where he needs to be. Because he is too far down the touchline, he cannot judge whether Antonio Valencia is offside, which he is.”
United’s move leading to the goal started off with a pass to Valencia, who was offside. The header that came shortly afterwards was a high quality strike, but the whistle should have blown early in the buildup, long before the ball was worked into the box and, after a first effort struck woodwork, onto Ibrahimovic’s head.
It wasn’t the only officiating moment that had Liverpool fans seeing red—another was when Wayne Rooney stomped down on James Milner’s ankle and escaped a carding. Webb again thought it was a mistake by referee Michael Oliver and his team, though he felt either yellow or red for Rooney would have been acceptable.
“I think Wayne Rooney’s tackle on James Milner, for which Michael Oliver gave a foul and no more, is one of those that is somewhere between a red and a yellow card,” Webb noted of the late incident. “I would ultimately say it is a yellow card. Rooney’s tackling technique is poor and he is reckless.”
Oliver at times gave the appearance of trying to “even up” the match with his officiating following the award of a penalty to Liverpool—a penalty replays showed was the correct call. In the end, he and his team managed to do that, and at two decisive moments they helped to determine the outcome of the game.