Referee Watch: Manchester United vs. Arsenal
By Matthew Campbell
After two dismal refereeing performances from Martin Atkinson and Phil Dowd in the last two Manchester United games it was Chris Foy’s turn to take centre stage in United’s comfortable 2-0 victory over Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter final.
But after both managers criticised the standard of refereeing in recent games, neither Sir Alex Ferguson nor Arsene Wenger could complain about Foy’s performance in this match as the official from St Helens produced an outstanding refereeing display, arguably, the best refereeing performance of the season.
Foy had taken charge of Man United on five previous occasions this season which was more than any other official in the Premier League. He is a referee of vast experience and has performed at some of the top games in English football over recent years including a Manchester derby this season, last year’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Portsmouth and more importantly a league meeting between United and Arsenal last season.
On that day United were comfortable 3-1 winners at The Emirates in a match that saw Foy produce only one yellow card and this match was a carbon copy of that one with Foy again only showing one yellow card. That was to Paul Scholes, who has never been blessed with good tackling ability, for a nasty looking two footed tackle on Marouane Chamakh. Although the veteran midfielder got a touch on the ball, it was a dangerous looking challenge so quite rightly deserved the yellow card which came in the fourth of eight minutes of stoppage time.
United were cruising at this point as Arsenal were forced to play the last ten minutes or so with ten men after Johan Djourou was stretchered off after a collision with team mate Bacary Sagna. So with two minutes of stoppage time remaining it was completely unnecessary for Scholes to go in late on Samir Nasri a tackle that on another day in another game could have seen him dismissed.
The challenge was reckless and not in keeping with the game which until that point didn’t have a nasty tackle in it so Foy used his common sense and gave the 36 year old a final warning rather than a second yellow card which was sensible considering the friendly nature of the game up until that point.
It wasn’t just this incident that he refereed well, in fact he refereed the whole 90 minutes extremely well with little fuss as he blended into the background in what was a one sided affair at times. After well taken goals from Fabio Da Silva and Wayne Rooney either side of half time ensured a semi final place at Wembley for Sir Alex’s side.
Foy, who refereed last year’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Portsmouth, is without a doubt the best player of the advantage rule out of all the Premier League referees and he proved this by playing two excellent advantages for the Gunners in the first half, one after a foul by Patrice Evra on Samir Nasri which led to an Arsenal shot being blocked.
Another good quality of Foy’s is that despite being 48, he is incredibly fit and can get around the pitch as well as the younger guys like Stuart Attwell and Michael Oliver, both of whom are in their twenties.
He has been one of the best performing officials this season and I think he will add to his domestic finals by taking charge of the Championship Play-off final in May, having already officiated the FA Cup final.
Having watched the majority of Manchester United games this season I have to say that this refereeing performance was the best i’ve seen in any match involving the Old Trafford outfit.
My Rating: 9/10
Wasn’t the perfect performance but was as near as it could have been with some good decisions made. His foul detection was exemplary and his use of advantage was brilliant as always. Managed to keep the game flowing and contributed to an exciting cup tie.
Marseille are the next visitors to Old Trafford for a Champions League Last 16 second leg tie on Tuesday night with the referee for that game still to be confirmed. My prediction is that Portugal’s Pedro Proenca will take charge of this game; however the appointment will not be announced until Monday.
But no matter who the man in charge is, United will no doubt be worried as the English teams haven’t been lucky with refereeing in Europe so far this season. Harry Redknapp felt aggrieved after French official Stephane Lannoy failed to dismiss Mathieu Flamini and Genaro Gattuso in Tottenham’s 1-0 win against AC Milan and Arsene Wenger was left fuming after Swiss official Massimo Busacca showed Robin Van Persie a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Barcelona at the Nou Camp, a decision that no doubt cost Arsenal a place in the quarter finals.
However with the score from the first leg being 0-0, United will feel that no matter who the ref is and no matter where he is from they will get the job done and book their place in the last eight of the competition.
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