By Mark James
Mark Clattenburg: No stranger to controversy[/caption]No one can deny that Manchester United were awarded the best of yesterday’s numerous errors by the referee, with Fernando Torres’ second yellow card and Javier Hernandez’ winning goal both coming after some less than accurate interpretations of the rules by Mark Clattenburg. Unsurprisingly, post match analysis was dogged by the ever beaten drum of referees failing to do their job effectively, whilst Roberto Di Matteo was keen to point out that it was the match official alone who cost them the game.
With that said, were Chelsea really that unlucky, or did the mistakes of the referee only serve to dampen the attention which should have been drawn to their own failings? No, I am not talking about their failings on the pitch. Yesterday saw two strong performances from two strong teams. Even at nine men, you still felt that Chelsea would be capable of finding a goal through the guile of their midfield three and the continual demise of the United back four.The failings I am discussing are those of a less savoury nature. The first came late on in the first half, as Fernando Torres made the decision to perform a kung fu kick to challenge the head splintering ability of Bruce Lee. If this had happened anywhere but on a football pitch, Mr. Torres would be having his day in court, as his high boot found its way to Tom Cleverley’s neck in a challenge which would undoubtedly see the likes of Joey Barton surrounded by an overly exuberant crowd of players vying for red, both in paper and in blood. However, on this occasion, Torres was more fortunate, as his reputation enabled him to sidestep what should have been an immediate sending off.
The second failing came in the form of Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo. Down to nine men, Chelsea were still seeking a way back into the game and understandably leaving constant holes at the back for the likes of Valencia and Young to exploit. The former found himself in such a situation with the time ticking down on the clock and looked to take a speedy throw in. At this point, the Chelsea manager took it upon himself to interject and physically intervene in the game, as he lunged towards Antonio Valencia in an attempt to pull at his arms. Fortunately, his stature is not quite up to the strength of Antonio Valencia and the United winger was easily able to shrug Di Matteo off and continue with the game. However, this yet again raises significant questions about the manner in which Chelsea attempted to ‘make things right’.
A similar point can be made about an odd incident which again involved Antonio Valencia and Chelsea defender David Luiz. With the winger constantly threatening to break free down the right side, David Luiz appeared to fake the throw of an elbow in Valencia’s direction. Again, little will be made of this in light of everything which proceeded and followed the event and it should also be noted that Valencia was in no danger of making contact with the thrown elbow. However, questions of sportsmanship need to be addressed. David Luiz has made similar unsporting gestures in the past, even calling for opposition players to ‘lave it’, in an attempt to influence the match. Whilst this may seem like nitpicking, it seems fair to ask the question of how this is any less an act of cheating than the debacle of diving which has surrounded Luis Suarez in recent weeks. Yet again, one can only assume that this incident will continue to go un-noted in the aftermath of the match.The final insult of the day was to come from the Chelsea fans themselves. Seeing a steward being attended to in large numbers immediately brought back thoughts of last season’s heart-wrenching scenes as Fabrice Muamba’s life was heroically saved on the White Hart Lane pitch. Fortunately, such an incident was not in the process of being repeated. However, more worryingly from the FA’s point of view, the steward found himself injured amongst a parade of overly exuberant fans in an incident which will now be investigated further.
To add injury to insult, Chelsea will now make a formal complaint against the referee. Whilst few can argue that Mark Clattenburg made mistakes throughout the game, one could fairly suggest that his biggest one was failing to send Fernando Torres off in the first half; an incident which the Manchester United players accepted with the kind of dignity the Chelsea boys are in dire need of.
I for one hope that the spotlight is thrust back onto the antics of the Chelsea team, management and fans, because in this incident, they should be held far more accountable than any individual official. So far this season, Chelsea have demonstrated a new style of play; one which will win them plaudits around the world and put to bed any complaints of the manner in which they were able to lift last years’ Champions League trophy.
With that said, winning requires dignity, whilst loss requires grace in defeat. Perhaps Chelsea’s biggest hurdle is learning this and ensuring that their young stars, management and fans do the same.
About the Author: Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..