Six yellows could have been more
This clash brought memories flooding back for me of the blood-and-thunder contests of yesteryear. I was in charge of the so-called Battle of Old Trafford in 1990, which was so feisty that it led to Arsenal and United being docked points.
Last night’s referee, Andre Marriner, brandished six cards
– but it could have been even more. That is not a sign that he let things spiral out of control. He was prepared to take firm action to avoid the contest boiling over.
Those who got off lightly included Marouane Fellaini, Alexandre Lacazette and Marcos Rojo. Fellaini was guilty of pulling Matteo Guendouzi by the hair. Such an action tends to be more common in overseas football. It normally merits a yellow card for unsporting behaviour, but can on occasion lead to a red for violent conduct. Fellaini had been on the receiving end of hair-pulling by Robert Huth of Leicester City in May 2016. Huth got a yellow card that day, so Fellaini would have known last night he was skating on thin ice.
Two minutes later Lacazette headed the ball out of David De Gea’s hand and kicked it into the net. The ‘goal’ was rightly ruled out although the Arsenal player could well have been shown a yellow for unsporting behaviour. Famously, Nottingham Forest’s Gary Crosby once “mugged” Manchester City’s Andy Dibble in the same way, but that goal stood.
Finally, Rojo was lucky to get away with a yellow for the way he threw himself at a rebounded shot and caught Guendouzi. It was a reckless challenge.
Headstrong: Marouane Fellaini (top) and Alexandre Lacazette