By Matthew Campbell
This was Peter Walton’s first visit to Old Trafford this season and he can be very pleased with his performance in what was, at times, a very one sided game.
He had refereed Manchester United on two previous occasions this season and the Red Devils hadn’t lost in those two games so the omens were good as United rung the changes opting to play O’Shea at left back when recently he has played on the right, and Fabio playing on the right, when the young winger prefers the left.
In a first half dominated by United, Peter Walton went completely unnoticed in a first forty five minutes in which the Northamptonshire official had only one big decision to make.
The Toffees who had Jermaine Beckford leading the front line of their attack had a penalty appeal turned down mid way through the half. A tangle of legs between Beckford and United defender Jonny Evans saw both players fall to the ground, the appeals from Everton were muted but the referee was asked to make the decision.
In real time it looked like six of one and half a dozen of the other and the referee, in my opinion rightly decided not to point to the penalty spot.
In the second half Man United continued to dominate the game and continued to attack Tim Howard’s goal. With chances for Hernandez and Nani before Walton was asked to get his cards out for the first time. Anderson was booked for high tackle on Seamus Coleman and then in quick succession Cahill was rightly cautioned for clipping Rio Ferdinand.
Then came the big decision of the second half. Victor Anichebe, who came on as a second half substitute made a bursting run into the penalty area. Rio Ferdinand who had a really good game, tussled with the Everton striker and appeared to put an arm into the attacker’s back.
Walton waved away the appeals, and in real time I didn’t see anything untoward with the challenge so I’m not surprised the referee didn’t award a foul, but having seen a replay there was a certain push so Everton can feel slightly hard done by. A challenge that had it occurred at any of the nineteen other Premier League grounds probably would have been given but not at Old Trafford.
Everton in all honesty didn’t deserve the three points so had they been given and scored the penalty it would have been a result that would have flattered the away side. Having said that Everton defended extremely well with Distin, Neville and Jagielka so they maybe feel they should have deserved a point.
But having knocked on the door all game, United finally got their goal as Hernandez, who in the first half had inadvertently prevented Nani from scoring, headed in a beautiful looping cross from Antonio Valencia. There were question marks over whether or not the Mexican was onside or not but Ron Ganfield the assistant referee on the far side called it spot on and allowed play to continue as Hernandez headed past Tim Howard six minutes from time.
Everton didn’t really have any chances after they went behind and even though there were five minutes of stoppage time the Merseyside club couldn’t’ work Edwin Van Der Sar in the United goal. This win for United sees there lead at the top of the table stretch to Nine points and it looks like it’s only a matter of time before Sir Alex Ferguson’s side recaptures the Premier League title.
This was probably Peter Walton’s best performance of the season. The 51 year old showed some brilliant fitness and got around the pitch very well. His decision making was overall pretty good I felt and punished tackles correctly rather than blowing for free kicks when there was little contact.
Think he should have given Everton a penalty but like I said I can see why it wasn’t given. But overall I think Walton put in a really competent performance.
My Rating: 6/10
United’s next three games will make or break their season. On Tuesday night they take on Schalke in the first leg of their Champions League semi final. They probably couldn’t have asked for a better last four draw, however the fact that this leg is away gives Schlake a chance of taking something into the second leg at Old Trafford.
United’s next Premier League game is an encounter with Arsenal which promises to be something special. By the time that match finishes and should other results go their way, United could have captured the title with three games to go. That match will need an experienced and sensible referee and because of that I can’t see anyone other than Howard Webb taking charge of that game.
They then face Schalke on Wednesday week in the second leg of the Champions League semi final and victory there would set up a final meeting at Wembley with one of the Spanish giants either Real Madrid, or more likely, Barcelona.
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