At the end of Howard Webb’s toughest weekend since taking up his new role as chief refereeing officer in the Premier League, former official Dermot Gallagher gives his verdict on the big decisions.
INCIDENT: VAR check cleared Marcus Rashford from being offside in the build-up to Bruno Fernandes’ equalizer (78) – to the fury of City’s players, who protested that the forward had interfered with play.
A Casemiro pass through for Rashford appeared to find the forward in a clear offside position but he didn’t touch the ball, despite it being right by his feet, and Fernandes stepped in to curl home from the edge of the box. City were incensed but VAR judged Rashford hadn’t touched the ball or impacted the City defense to be offside.
TIME TAKEN BY VAR: 60 seconds
What is the offside rule in this case?
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:
- interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
- interfering with an opponent by:
- preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
- challenging an opponent for the ball or
- clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
- making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
DERMOT’S VERDICT: Wrong decision, offside.
DERMOT SAYS: “As a referee I would have given offside.
“But it’s difficult as it is a subjective decision. Different people have interpreted it differently. For me personally, I think the safest decision is offside.
“I think that for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think Rashford is too close to the ball.
“I think he impacts on the goalkeeper and he impacts on Akanji’s run. I think he changes his running position. Originally, when he sees the ball he starts moving to the right, and then he goes to the left – towards the ball.
“The assistant referee Darren Cann then makes the decision. He ran the line in the World Cup final so I think he’d know more about offside than me, so I’d take his view of blowing the whistle.
“If you look at the angle from behind the goal, you can see the referee’s view, which is why the law becomes so complex.
“The referee can see the distance between Akanji and Rashford and he feels in his mind that the defender is not going to get there.
“The law is clear on whether Rashford touches the ball as he doesn’t. Does he impact on Ederson? Has Ederson got to think who is going to shoot?
“Stuart Attwell has made the decision that it doesn’t impact on Ederson’s thinking. He’s gone to Darren Cann and spoken about it.
“If Darren Cann plays it one way and Stuart Attwell plays it another, the vote is 1-1.
“If the vote is 1-1, the referee is always going to back himself and he’s decided with the law as it is, he can award the goal.”
Why didn’t VAR intervene?
DERMOT SAYS: “The knock-on effect from the referee making that decision is that the VAR can’t intervene.
“The VAR rules on whether it is a factual offside. This is not a factual offside. This is a subjective offside and the referee has decided that in his view, it didn’t fulfill the criteria so therefore the VAR has no evidence to go against him because his view is supported by law.
“The referee made the decision and hypothetically the VAR would’ve listened to that and heard him say, in my view, he hasn’t impacted on the play. When the VAR is looking at it, he can’t argue with that because it is not clearly wrong given it is a subjective decision.If he sends the referee to the screen, he is only going to look at the same thing and make the same decision.
“It’s not as if he is going to tell Stuart Attwell, ‘you need to have a look at this, but something happened behind your back.’ The referee didn’t think Rashford made an offside offense because of the way the laws are configured. The VAR, because it is a subjective decision the referee has made on the field, is eliminated.”
Why wasn’t the referee sent to check monitor?
DERMOT SAYS: “I suspect it is because Darren Cann has already got that same view and he would have been able to tell him where Rashford and Ederson are [in relation to the ball] and he would have been able to feed that information.
“With that information in his locker, he could pool his resources.”
“The way the law is set up, it does allow him to make that judgment of offside. It is unfortunate as the chances of that happening again soo is so remote and it is so unusual to have a player come in like that. You look at it over and over again, and think ‘what is the safest option for me as a ref?’ That’s not me being a coward, it’s me keeping it simple and keeping it safe.I default to Darren Cann running the line in the World Cup.
“When Stuart Attwell then went across to his assistant, he is not duty-bound to take his decision. What Darren Cann then offered was advise, and based on what he was told and what he saw, he came to that decision to award the Unfortunately, when he made that decision, he blocked VAR Michael Oliver out.
“That’s the biggest part of this. He can’t go to the screen because it is not factual. It is subjective and there is nothing that Michael Oliver can say to change his mind.”
‘We need to know why’
Stephen Warnock on Sky Sports News:
“We are all discussing this now, but we’ll never know the outcome. Decisions like this have to be made public.
“They have to come out and tell us why, what the discussions was and why they came to that decision.
“I haven’t got a clue what the offside rule is now because it has changed so many times recently. It’s so complicated but that wasn’t complicated. It was so clear and obvious he has interfered with play. He’s taken Akanji, Ederson and Walker’s attention so straight away he has interfered with play.”
‘Ederson is set for Rashford’s shot’
Sue Smith on Sky Sports News:
“From behind the goal, you can clearly see Ederson is set for a Marcus Rashford shot.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that Rashford is interfering in the play.
“The safest decision would have been to call offside.”
Man City boss Pep Guardiola said: “Manu Akanji stops the line [of running]. If he knows that he is going to go with Rashford, he will go back with him and do the duel one versus one and he sees what happens. But he intervenes in the action.
“The referee decided he did not want to intervene in this stadium. It’s OK, what are we going to do? Are we going to make a complaint? No. Congratulations for that. Sometimes it happens in our [favour]. Sometimes [it’s like] that. The decision is they didn’t believe him [impacted the play]. Rashford was intervening in this action when this happened.
“It’s Old Trafford. We have to play much better. Like it’s Anfield. We have to do better.
“The rule is the rule, the interpretation belongs to the referee. I say Rashford is offside, Bruno is not. The situation is for the referees.
“When one player shoots and [another] player is in front of the keeper and does not touch the ball, it’s disallowed all the time. The decision is of course [belonging to] the referees and VARs. We follow the action, we don’t make an offside [appeal]we follow the action and after the action, it’s either Ederson intervenes [with a save] or not.
“What can we improve? After we concede the goal, in the next few minutes we cannot concede the next one. We allowed them to score. Come, come, come. This is the most important detail we have to improve for the future. “