Despite the objections of one son, who thinks Burnley fans should not attend Manchester United matches, I went with my other son, who supports Manchester United, to see his team beat Arsenal.
It was all over pretty quickly which at least allowed me to get revenge on Arsenal supporter Piers Morgan for the ‘taxi for Campbell’ text he sent when Burnley went two down at The Emirates in the FA Cup earlier this year. His reply ‘Go back to Burnley’ suggested he was pretty deflated. Not up to his usual insult standard. All very childish I know, but Piers and I have been insulting each other childishly since he was a child.
In addition to the brilliance of goals 2 and 3, there were a few other moments to enjoy. ‘Fergie, Fergive give us a wave,’ followed by the United manager appearing to cross his arms, Benitez style, to indicate ‘game over’ was a good one for the afficionadoes. Bumping into rugby player Mark Cueto, and reminiscing about the Lions trip to New Zealand, filled in a bit of pre-match time. Good too that I narrowly missed being hit by the bottle of coke that came our way after the second goal. And for once, I could walk home from the stadium, as opposed to the four or five hours it takes to get from Burnley.
But the satisfaction for my son and his fellow United fans, despite all the ‘we’re going to Rome and that’s a fact’ singing (another dig at Benitez for his unwise rant of a few weeks ago) was minimised significantly by the fact that Darren Fletcher was sent off unfairly and will miss the Final.
As Jamie Redknapp and Ruud Gullit know from my occasional childish and not so childish texts to them when they’re commentating for Sky, Fletcher is the Campbell household’s Number 1 United player, who does not get anything like the recognition he deserves.
He has overcome quite a lot of grumbling from supporters in his early days at the club to become a key player who would almost certainly have played in the Final. He has heroic fitness levels, is a team player par excellence, and a Scot.
His tackle on Fabregas, whilst not elegant, was a superb piece of defending, not a foul, certainly not a red card. As he trudged off to one of the few loud Arsenal cheers of the night, all around us were trying to find out if he could appeal. That he could not adds to the injustice.
Uefa is entitled to have its rules, which appear to stipulate that his case can only be looked at if the Italian referee, Roberto Rosetti, looks at the tape, decides to admit he made a mistake, and he can recommend the card be rescinded.
But surely, for a match as important as this, there should be a better system than that. There is talk that this will lead to a change in the system, that such incidents could be reviewed by a refereeing panel after the event. But that is not going to happen in time for this.
In which case, public and media opinion may be the only thing that might even begin to swing it. So I hope Redknapp and Gullit pile it on in their pre- and post-match discussions at Stamford Bridge on Sky tonight. They might spread the word among the Continental stations likely to be watched by Uefa’s hierarchy, and get Geoff Shreeve to ask the Chelsea and Barcelona managers in their pre-match interviews whether they think it is grossly unfair for a player to miss a Final in these circumstances. They both seem like decent men.
What is the greatest injustice anyone can face? Probably to be in jail for something you haven’t done. Missing a Champions League Final for a red card that should never have been given is not far off from being a footballing equivalent.
Of course some will say that Fletcher will continue to draw a huge weekly salary and all the perks that go with being a modern Premiership footballer. Right now, I bet he would sacrifice the lot to be able to pull on his shirt in Rome’s Olympic Stadium on May 27.
‘All very childish I know, but Piers and I have been insulting each other childishly since he was a child.’
Hehehe. I still think there’s a TV show in there somewhere. I would definitely watch it…. 😉
Um, it was a foul, and hence had to be a red card.
Why he was even making that tackle with a four-and-a-half goal advantage is a better question.
That’s football Alastair, and you know that as well as all of us. Sometimes sport isn’t fair and there are numerous examples of this type of thing. Imagine how Laurent Blanc felt when he missed the world cup final in similar circumstances. Also there is not universal support in the media for the idea that it wasn’t a penalty, some are saying it was. On the unfair note, whilst Ronaldo’s free kick was brilliant he cheated to get the free kick. Hard luck, that’s sport. Cheating is becoming endemic throughout sport.
I watched the match with my son too (although on TV) and the match was tainted for us by the Fletcher injustice as well. Being 10, my boy was especially upset as he has a 10 years olds view of justice and getting credit for doing the right thing. He hasn’t really realized that in life sometimes it’s just not fair. It was down to me to try to soften the blow for him and add a ray of hopefulness. DF definitely deserves to play in the final, however 24 different players have taken the field for UTD in this years Champions League campaign, so with 11 players and 3 subs who can possibly play in Rome, there will be 10 players who will miss out on the final who have a claim to play. With Fletcher banned, one of those 10 will get a break . One mans injustice will be another mans chance of glory and as my lads fave player is JS Park…I suggested to him that he might be the lucky recipient of the gap in the team. Fletchers day will come…he seems to have very broad shoulders if his attitude on the pitch is anything to go by….and it’s not all bad, after all he will be the winning captain in the glorious Scotland World Cup team in South Africa…won’t he?
Your response to Piers will probably have brought on a “Susan Boyle” moment for him, tired and emmotional – Still Arsenal didn’t have much too sing about. Maybe Piers can convince her to lead the communal singing at the opening of next season.Susan will get a bigger cheer than the team.
Maybe Rafa could enlist Susan’s help with a version of “ferry across the Mersey” – “Ferry for Rafa”
The remarkable thing about that match and its aftermath is finding out this morning about Sir Alex Ferguson’s granchildren and daughter-in-law having been in a serious accident earlier in the day and SAF’s composure and professionalism in dealing with the media after the match. As someone says elsewhere <http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2009/may/05/arsenal-manchester-united-champions-league-richard-williams> it perhaps explains his lack of railining against the ref’s decision.
I hope you’re right about Fletcher. At least he exited with his head up and didn’t throw any petulant histrionics in the ref’s direction, which seems to happen way too often. One would hope that might help.
Darren Fletcher is one of the nicest guys around playing football. He is not a cheat, he dosen’t dive and apparently he’s very unassuming. I hope Mr Rosetti does recind the card, it would be as victory for common sense without changing the rules.
Pity about poor old Piers though, and how cruel of you to taunt him Ally (again!!)
Personally, I knew the game was won when I saw the 60,000 crappy flags the Arsenal fans were waving.In the semi final of the european cup you shouldn’t need the club to try and generate an atmosphere ….that’s what fans should do. That probably says more than anything about the people who now attend Arsenal’s games, fatboy Morgan included.
I feel sorrry for Darren Fletcher, not only for the red card but for the judgements he has faced from United fans. I think Darren is an unsung hero of United’s squad. When I was Hartlepool United’s Prozone Analyst I had the pleasure of righting the wrong judgements, on certain players, from fans. I would love to see Fletcher’s status over a season – I would bet his rates of successful passing and ground covered would be in the top 3 or 4 United players. There is a need for system changes within UEFA and the suspension and appeals department is high on the list. If Le President (Michel Platini) spent more time making his union fairer and transparent rather than constant jealous tirades against english teams, the england national team and english associations, we would get a better european game. As for Piers Morgan, I can’t help but like him. I can’t believe I just said that.
You and Piers as the judges on the panel to find Britain’s best insults, and insulting each other through the programme … I would watch.
Terrible decision, I get the feeling the ref felt sorry for Arsenal. There should be a rule change so that such bad decisions can be overturned
I’ve become pretty anti-football, as well as fed up by it: I’m sick to the back teeth of bad behaviour by managers and players, plus undeserved obscene wealth, undertaxed by the Labour government I support but which could have done more to make our society more equal.
You are right on this, though. However it should apply to all refereeing mistakes retrospectively. As I recall, Chelsea once one a European trophy as a result, ultimately, or someone having clearly dived in the previous season’s FA Cup semi-final. Chelsea should never have been allowed to win either trophy.
And of course, we’re talking about football here. So although the rule change you want is right, I expect managers and players would respond by appealing every yellow and red card retrospectively.
Speaking as a Salford red, I too was delighted by United’s trouncing of London’s french speaking XI. I was struck yet again by London media bias, from Nils Blythe on the PM show to the London desk of CNN (as well as many others on the mainstream media during the day) urging Arsenal on prior to the match – delighted that Fergie came good yet again (btw, did anyone read Peter Preston’s article the other day saying Britain’s public sector needed more managers like Wenger? What is it about Fergie’s phenomenal excellence the Metropolis doesn’t get?).
You’re right about Fletcher the footballer, but I saw his hand pulling back on Fabregas’s shoulder and Fletcher’s legs coming through the player once he’d touched the ball away. The Ref was right. The automatic suspension is harsh though – he’s a super guy and deserves better.
In my experience getting any Italian never mind an Italian referee to admit he was wrong is about as likely as Margret Thatcher thinking Arthur Scargill would be the right person to head up a committee on ‘polish coal imports the way forward’ Sorry Darren you may be watching from the stands.
P.S Well Done to Asda in Burnley, for providing drinks and snacks to the fans who queued for up to 6 hours at Turf Moor for playoff tickets.
I spent 7 hours on the phone on bank holiday Monday getting mine.
I concur with the football monogamy son.
As a Liverpool fan, I hope UEFA see sense and reverse the decision and let the lad play. As a follower of Formula One, a lot is often said about the decisions of the FIA.. but at least they know when to admit they made a mistake. It would appear UEFA are unable to do so. Bonkers.
Leaving aside the fact that he was tugging on Fabregas’ shirt, what on earth was he doing a spinning flying scissor kick tackle for anyway? Arsenal needed to score 5 goals. From the referee’s position you wouldn’t have been able to tell whether the ball came off Fabregas’ chest or Fletcher’s foot and it certainly looked enough of a foul.
Perhaps if it was that much of an injustice then football would look at introducing a video ref to look at these incidents during the game. If you’re of the view that it slows the game down too much then you need to accept that these decisions will happen, and get over it.
If you are prepared to use video replay to criticise the ref, then you should also be prepared to use it to help him.