Date: 5th October 2009 at 11:20am
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There was a collective and embarassing hounding of Howard Webb when he had the nerve to award Manchester United a penalty when we were 2-0 down in April’s home game against Spurs. No mention of the obvious fact that he should have sent off Wilson Palacios as early as the 8th minute for a disgraceful challenge.

Then there was this season’s Manchester derby when Martin Atkinson was blasted for allowing play to continue until the 96th minute and Michael Owen scored the winner at the last possible minute. Stoke away: every match report contained a mention of a Scholes handball which could have brought him a second yellow but none of them reported a clear handball in the Stoke penalty area.

And now there is this weekend’s Sunderland game. James Lawton in the Independent writes that the reasons for Fergie’s blast of referee Alan Wiley (the boss declared that Wiley hadn’t been fit enough for the game) weren’t apparent to the rest of the world. Well, it should be and it would be if his decisions benefitted United.

Probably not many of you remember Wes Brown’s opener at Blackburn last season: he headed home Rooney’s cross after challenging the Rovers keeper for the ball. Rovers complained, the media also blamed the referee. On Saturday Kenwyne Jones scored a similar goal – well, not very similar because this time there was contact whereas at Ewood Park Brown clearly did nothing wrong – challenging the meek and indecisive Ben Foster in a way that eight times out of ten is called a foul. Not this time though, he was allowed to get away with it – not a word about it in the press who vilified the ref last autumn for allowing Brown’s legitimate goal to stand.

And of course there was a clear, obvious handball in the penalty area which Reid sold as chesting it down. No mention of that either in the press, you can only find gleeful summaries of how bad United were. And it is quite infuriating that the media perpetuates this myth that United have an influence over the referees by a very simple trick: they blow all mistakes out of proportion when they happen to benefit United and brush the other ones under the carpet. Want another example? Scholes’ red card at Spurs: everyone blamed Scholes for not being able to tackle even though his second yellow was ridiculous and the referee should have been under scrutiny because of a big mistake. But he got away with it because his mistake was for the benefit of our opponents.

I’m pretty sure that if, say, Berbatov or Rooney scored the goal that Jones scored, the papers would be full of condemnation for the referee and had Evra handled the ball like Reid did in the penalty area we would be hearing about it every time Wiley gets to referee a United game. But it will be forgotten quickly as this time we were the victims and that does not fit the image of ‘United are always assisted by the referees’. We’re not and that should be obvious to anyone who cares to watch our games in full length but I suspect this will never be accepted because later rather than sooner the way things go this season a refereeing error will go our way and the referee will be crucified again, giving ammunition to ABUs for another months.