Referee Bahattin Duran sends off Nani of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second leg match between Manchester United and Real Madrid at Old Trafford on March 5, 2013 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
Referee Bahattin Duran sends off Nani of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second leg match between Manchester United and Real Madrid at Old Trafford on March 5, 2013 in Manchester, United Kingdom. Alex Livesey / Getty Images

Sir Alex defies rules after UEFA game against Real Madrid

IT isn't the first time and it certainly won't be the last that a refereeing decision at Old Trafford has swayed the outcome of an important game.

But down the years most of those decisions have gone the way of the home team and that is why I have little sympathy for Manchester United or its manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

I have to say first, though, that speaking as a neutral I have to agree with 99.9% of onlookers (Roy Keane being the amazing exception to the rule) that Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir's decision to send Nani off for a high challenge on Real Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa was most definitely the wrong one.

No one will ever know whether with 11 men United would have held on to beat Real Madrid, but what I do know is the referee's decision to flash the red card changed the momentum of the game in Jose Mourinho's favour and the Madrid coach used his undoubted nous to take advantage tactically of the extra man.

Nani did raise his foot quite high and did catch Arbeloa.

But it is hard to make any case that he was using "excessive force or brutality against an opponent" when excessive force means "the player has far exceeded the necessary force and is in danger of injuring his opponent", which is what it says in the laws of the game about the reasons for a sending off.

But that does not excuse Ferguson for his behaviour, and his team's behaviour, after the game, and the club is set to rightly pay the price.

Uefa - European football's governing body - is taking action over Nani's red card and the "non-fulfilment of post-match media obligations" at Old Trafford.

According to Ferguson's assistant Mike Phelan, the 71-year-old was "too distraught" to face the media in the post-match conference, while the United boss also apparently banned his players from talking to the waiting press.

Uefa demands at least two players must talk to the media in what is described as the 'flash zone'.

Of course, I can understand Ferguson was upset at the referee's decision, but he has to realise that he is not bigger than the game.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. Getty Images / Clive Rose

Rules are there to be adhered to on and off the pitch and if Ferguson and United have broken UEFA rules, then they deserve to be punished.

There have been plenty of times down the years that opposition managers at Old Trafford have seen decisions go against them, but I am sure the majority of those have spoken to the press about them afterwards.

They might have faced a fine for comments made, but at least they had the dignity to speak to the media throng.

Old Trafford's press room would have been packed to overflowing for the Real Madrid clash and every journalist there would have been waiting to ask Ferguson about his views over the sending off.

That they were forced to speak to the assistant coach was just plain wrong and an insult to the press.

For too long now Ferguson has ruled the roost and has seemingly been able to dictate where and when he speaks to the media.

It looks like UEFA is taking a tough stance with United and Ferguson, and about time too.


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