Arsenal got away with it on Saturday. That was the verdict of England’s former number one referee, Howard Webb.
To the delight of Gooners around the world, Jose Mourinho was left raging at referee Andre Marriner’s decision to wave play on after Nacho Monreal bundled Antonio Valencia over in the box.
The United manager threw a hissy fit at the fourth official as the action on the pitch continued. It made Olivier Giroud’s 89th minute equaliser all the sweeter, knowing that it would be like a sucker punch to Mourinho’s gut.
Webb, who refereed the 2010 World Cup final, went on to state that it was far from clear cut.
“I think on balance it was a penalty,” Webb told BT Sport. “Was it a cast-iron, stone wall penalty? No.
“I saw it in slow-motion, and the contact was less significant than I first thought.”
“But do I think Monreal in his attempt to get the ball impeded him? Yes I do.
“I think it’s a penalty and I’m surprised Andre didn’t give it. Quotes via daily star
Marriner obviously felt that it was entirely insignificant as he didn’t book Valencia for diving. It’s a staggering claim for Webb to make, encouraging players to dive.
“The contact was less significant than I first thought”? What kind of half-arsed thinking is that? If it wasn’t a significant touch, why would it be a penalty? It’s little wonder he had a reputation for giving soft penalties in the big matches.
In Webb’s view, Monreal impeded Valencia and denied him the chance to score. Then again Howard Webb would give United the penalty, wouldn’t he? Despite being a self-confessed Rotherham United supporter, Webb was seen as lenient toward United. OK, biased is a better word.
Marriner showed great mental strength as United hounded him in disbelief at his decision. More, it seems, than Webb would have. And more than Webb showed at White Hart Lane in 2008/09 when he wrongly awarded United a penalty as Spurs showed their usual spinelessness and succumbed to a 5 – 2 defeat despite being 2 – 0 up at half-time.