Tuesday, March 1, 2011

United Right To Feel Hard Done By

Chelsea Pay Off The Officials For 3rd Game RunningThe look said it all. As Martin Atkinson pointed to the penalty spot following an incident inside the area, Ferguson could be seen wearing one of his catalog of menacing glares. Using the luxury of video replay afforded to the "Couch Side Fan" it appeared as though Chris Smalling was unlucky, that there was no time for him to step away from the hurtling Yuri Zhirkov. United fans are right to be angry about the penalty call, but what most viewers should be even more concerned about is the behavior of David Luiz.

 Having scored the equalizer, a fine strike in the 54th minute, Luiz three times body checked a United player, twice Rooney and once Chicharito. Only once out of the three did Atkinson award Luiz a yellow card, and the third offense in particular deserves a second look from the FA. With the ball wide on the right and Nani in possession, Rooney looked to make a quick dart into the penalty box which was, cynically, stopped by a Luiz leg, thrown at Rooney long after the ball had moved elsewhere. United critics point to Rooney's elbow on McCarthy at the weekend, but this challenge belongs in a completely different category. While Rooney's assault on McCarthy was reckless and dangerous, it wasn't committed with the intent to gain an unfair advantage in the match. On the other hand, Luiz's challenge was perpetrated with the goal of stopping Rooney's attacking progress, in other words, it was cheating. Lucky to be on the pitch at that point anyway, Luiz certainly should have been sent off for an act both immoral and stupid. Had Luiz gone at this point or, possibly, even earlier in the match, then the result of the game would almost certainly have been different. Unfortunately, we'll never know what the final outcome would have been, but what we do know however is, that in Luiz, the Premier League have been gifted a fantastic defender, as well as a fantastic cheater.

Looking away from what the result might have been, and back onto what the result will always be, one would have to think that the title race is well and truly, back on. United face the prospect of a demanding trip to Anfield without Captain Fantastic Nemanja Vidic, and with Andy Carrol in the frame to start that match, you would think that Vidic's aerial prowess might be missed on Merseyside.

At twelve points back with a quarter of the season to go, it still seems unlikely that Chelsea will find a way back into the title race. The Blues should be buoyed by this win, enough so that they can secure the fourth Champions League place, but a successful title defense is still probably beyond them.

Arsenal, who will still be reeling from their dramatic Carling Cup collapse, will also take plenty of positives from this result, but attentive Gunners fans will surely notice that their crucial game in hand on United, the one they were supposed to play last weekend, comes at the home of hated rivals Spurs, and one would imagine that three points will not be gleaned there. Also, Arsenal will face a difficult next few weeks against all their upcoming opponents, as Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott are all sidelined.

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