Manchester United – Real Madrid, explaining the laws of the game

OH, WHAT A BAD KNIGHT! – by Mal Davies

This article concerns the match on  Tuesday 5th March 2013 : Manchester United v Real Madrid (1-2, aggregate 2-3) in the champions league.

I’m publishing it because although the match was a little while ago, the central point in this post is incredibly important.  It reveals either a complete lack of knowledge of the rules of football by Sir A F or extreme duplicity and pretty much gross incompetence by the same man.  Tony


Referee: Cuneyt Cakir; ARs:  Bahattin Duran & Tarik Ongun; 4th official: Mustafa Eyisoy; AARs: Huseyin Gosek & Mete Kalkavan. All officials from Turkey .

The 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League game, ManUtd v Real Madrid, had a big talking point after the 56th minute dismissal of Nani (ManUtd) for Serious Foul Play, namely, endangering the safety of an opponent, Alvaro Arbeloa.

It was a bad night for ManUtd who led 1-0 through a 48th minute own goal by Sergio Ramos, and a bad night for their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who was too ‘distraught’ after the game to appear at the press conference.

Sadly the media portrayed the decision by the referee to dismiss Nani as shocking. The argument was that Nani was attempting to control the high ball, coming over his shoulder, with his foot, and did not intentionally make contact with Arbeloa.

‘Intent’ was taken out of the Laws in 1995 by the International FA Board, our law makers – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and FIFA make up the IFAB. With ‘intent’, referees were being asked to read the player’s mind. Did he intend doing that? But now, referees are no longer required to do this.

Referees will now look at the outcome in an incident. Briefly, if, for example, a player is on the ground, the referee now has to forget intent. The player has got there because his opponent has been at least careless (no card), reckless (yellow card) or used excessive force (red card). Referees are also asked to bear in mind that a tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as Serious Foul Play, a red card offence.

The game is football : using the foot to play the ball; in fact, using any part of the body except the hand or arm. Heading the ball is also allowed. Guidelines for referees when considering ‘endangering the safety of an opponent’ in the Nani incident is, more or less, players are allowed to use their feet up to about waist high. Above that, the player can head the ball but if he uses his foot, he should make sure there is no player in the immediate vicinity whose safety will be endangered (red card).

Some people argued that Nani’s action was Dangerous Play. Dangerous Play is now an indirect free kick if it involves no physical contact between the players. If there is physical contact, the action is no longer Dangerous Play but becomes an offence punishable with a direct free kick or penalty kick. So Nani was not guilty of Dangerous Play under the new interpretation.

A scissors kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent.

In Nani’s case the ball was above waist high. He should have been intercepting the ball with his head or chest or not playing the ball at all. It was up to him to make sure that, if he decided to use his foot at that height, his foot would not make contact with an opponent.

Nani’s foot was up. His leg was straight. He made contact straight into Alvaro’s chest. He could have fractured a couple of ribs. He did not but he could have. Nani, some people argued, did not intentionally aim to injure Alvaro, but intent no longer enters the equation. The outcome saw both players on the ground as a result of Nani’s lack of consideration for the safety of Alvaro. It was a clear red card for Serious Foul Play by endangering the safety of an opponent.

In many employments, the employee would be cautioned (yellow card) or sacked (red card) if he broke company rules. And so it is in the best interest of the employee to be aware of those rules. But football is an employment which has employees working without knowing what their boss (the IFAB) regards as misconduct, not fully knowing what they can be yellow or red carded for. It seemed that, in Nani’s case, the manager and his players were not aware that such an offence warranted a red card. And most in the UK media, sorry to say, were also unaware.

FIFA and UEFA have seminars where their officials are shown DVDs of incidents (fouls) and the interpretation that the Laws require them to make. If there is a referee who does not carry out the application of the Laws correctly then he might not be asked to referee many games or he could be demoted, and in certain circumstances possibly removed. He cannot referee a game using his own interpretations as Laws need to be uniformly applied worldwide.

Referees cannot use common sense. They used to. But then the media complained about the referees not being uniform in their decisions.

Now, not only are the Laws in a booklet, but also the Interpretations & Guidelines appear in the present day ‘Laws of the Game’ booklet. There should be no excuse for anyone misinterpreting a Law.

“The world will be watching” said Jose Mourinho, Real’s manager, before the game. So what an opportunity for the world to learn the Laws and its new interpretations.  Well, not that new as they have been around for a few years. The media owe it to fans to put over the correct interpretation of any Law especially if a Law has been amended or updated.  But the media let everyone down.

The UEFA Referee’s Observer at the match was Pierluigi Collina who backed the referee’s decision and marked him 8.2 out of 10. He would have got more, Collina said, if he had not ignored Rio Ferdinand’s clapping in his face after the final whistle. UEFA had ‘no issues’ with the red card.

Coaches must instil into their players they are not to injure or endanger the safety of opponents who are fellow professionals. Not being aware of the interpretation together with, what a number have said, the tactics chosen by Sir Alex, cost ManUtd the game. It was not the referee’s fault. He officiated in the manner his bosses required and was given a high mark.

Once a team is reduced to ten men, any manager should then have a different strategy. Mourinho, realising his team were now playing against ten men, brought on Luka Modric to replace Arbeloa. Seven minutes later, in oceans of space, Modric was allowed to shoot for goal and score from 25 yds, 1-1. Two minutes later, a goal kick started a 21-pass move between Real players without any ManUtd player touching the ball, and ending with a goal by Ronaldo, 1-2 and aggregate score 2-3.

ManUtd did not score themselves. Their goal was a 48th minute own goal by Sergio Ramos. So they went 90 mins without scoring. With 10-men including Rooney, left out of the starting line-up, now on for Welbeck, ManUtd had good chances to score but failed.

Real’s manager reorganised his team to meet the 10 v 11 situation. He quickly seized the opportunity while his opposite number was still thinking about the decision to award a red card to one of his players at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex saw his team fail to score in the first half, score through an own goal, and then receive a red card for one of his players. He did not seem to have an immediate strategy for his players, now reduced to playing 10 v 11. They saw their manager descending the steps, wagging a finger at the referee, confronting the 4th official, and then looking for more support from the crowd!

Outcome? Real quickly scored two away goals, and Sir Alex was too ‘distraught’ to answer questions after the game.

Players reflect their managers. They saw their manager confronting the referee, wagging his finger. It was disappointing to see some of the ManUtd players after the game likewise confronting the referee.

A bad night for ManUtd and for Sir Alex.

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5 Responses to Manchester United – Real Madrid, explaining the laws of the game

  1. kazeem says:

    what did u mean by the word of lack of knowledge in the rule of football? a man in club for over 20year, what did u know? did u watch bayern v asnal? maybe not becouse if u watch that match u wouldn’t taik that way. did u see lahm against rosisky? which one between worth red card? is better u find another thing say.

  2. Jack says:

    “ManUtd did not score themselves. Their goal was a 48th minute own goal by Sergio Ramos. So they went 90 mins without scoring.”

    You dick head………

  3. nick allen says:


    that comment says nothing apart from describing to us all how bad your attitude is , a constuctive piece by walter and although i do not agree with it all or a lot of things written on this site i see personal abuse as vile and childish and in my opinion you should hang your head in shame.

  4. Walter Broeckx says:

    I just want to point out that this article was written by Mal Davies and he is a former ref and was active and still is in the referee world in England.

  5. peter downey says:

    With most decisions you can make an argument for or against. Roy Keane, of course, found against Nani. I have no doubt you could have found an argument for Van Persie being sent off for Arsenal against Barcelona.
    Both decisions, however, as far as I’m concerned were a travesty.
    And as far as Nani’s decision alone was concerned, it wasn’t only Manchester United fans who believed that. There was a stunned silence at Old Trafford, the Real Madrid players also seemed bemused (a subjective view from me, I agree.) Marca in Spain refered to it as ‘unjust,’ Tuttosport in Italy were scathing about the referee, the huge majority of pundits took the same view. Most other Spanish, Italian and German papers I read also took the same view. AS in Spain was the only paper I could find that was not bemused by the decision – in fact, it chose to act as though it was not even controversial, though Guillem Balagué. who writes for the paper did disagree with the decision in his blog. All this lends the lie to Ray Wilkins’ argument (though I believe he holds the view honestly) that the european attitude to a high kick is different to the attitude in the UK. Further evidence against Ray’s point of view is the fact that in another last 16 game, played later, there was an overhead kick where the foot was high and it actually touched a defender – nothing (or amazingly little) was even said about it, let alone the ref taking some action. And, of course, we’ve since seen the incident with Benzema for RM against Galatasaray, very alike, except the players were practically facing each other and the face was caught as opposed to the chest and that not so much as a yellow was shown. What is remarkable (actually, probably not) is that it was not a talking point in europe (as far as I can tell and I did read on the internet.) It was not discussed because in Europe as here it was seen as an accident and deemed not worthy of a card. It was also interesting that ESPN Press pass all three (or 4) said the Norwegian ref was correct (interesting to see what marks Collina gives him) as equally as The Turkish referee was wrong.
    Now does this mean that the majority are right because they are the majority? Well, normally I would say not. But what they understood in a way that the referee and Roy Keane did not, is that it is easy to give a reason for a decision, it is easy to be slavishly correct but it is far more difficult to tap into that balance that allows you to make the right decision. Something equally lacking in the referee two years ago with Van Persie.
    I must say Walter that you and this (or another ) Arsenal web page have done a good job in showing that Riley and Prozone have been pretty tacky with their findings about off-side. And that I am amazed that so many journalists have been taken in by it. Surely, the alarm bells should have rang – 99%!

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