United at Old Trafford: Lucky, Good, or Something Else?

Full disclosure: I’m a Spurs fan.  Have been for round about six years, which just so happens to be just before the last time Mark Clattenburg took charge of a Manchester United v Spurs fixture at Old Trafford.  For any who needed their memory jogged (or who weren’t fans at the time):

Look, Tottenham didn’t deserve to win on Saturday.  They were undone by the same problems that have plagued the entire season to date.  Falling behind early, a few naive moments in defense, poor set piece defending.  While they generally pass the ball well through the midfield, striker play has been awful, for the most part.

That said, Spurs shouldn’t be forced to beat the referee as well.  Old Trafford is tough enough to begin with.  Some might remember Spurs going into halftime with a 2-0 lead at this fixture two seasons ago, before Howard Webb called an incorrect penalty on Gomes, after which point the floodgates opened and United won 5-2.  Getting back to Clattenburg, I also remember him taking charge of a Spurs-United match at White Hart Lane two or three years ago, and it sticks in my mind because Paul Scholes got away with three bad and cynical fouls without being shown any card at all.

Needless to say, when I saw who the referee was for this match, I went in expecting an uphill battle.  Nani’s goal has been discussed ad nauseum on here, on pundit shows, and everywhere else so I’ll be brief when I get to it.  I’m more concerned about the other incidents in what was a very clean match with few other talking points at all.  But close examination does provide some enlightening details, in my opinion.  Here’s a short rundown – by minute – of all the other incidents in the match (I’ve tried to put away my lilywhite colored specs to do this, please cut me a little slack!):

1’st minute – Nani goes up for a 50/50 ball with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, clean play but Nani decides to roll around on the pitch for a few seconds and make an appeal to Clattenburg.  A pretty tame moment, but bares mentioning for all that happened later…

2′ – …including because of what happens in the next minute.  Nani, now popping up on the opposite side, attacks Alan Hutton.  There might’ve been minor (incidental) contact with Hutton, but not even close to being a foul.  Nani then loses control of the ball as it goes out for a goal kick, takes 3 more steps and dives with no one around him.  He then puts out his arms to appeal for God-knows-what.   At this point Clattenburg should’ve at least given Nani a telling-off to stop all the complaining and play-acting (a yellow card for this sort of crap should be the way forward IMO), yet does nothing.

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