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Rooney steals Wembley show

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Phil McNulty | 07:30 UK time, Monday, 1 March 2010

Wayne Rooney's golden streak is now so unstoppable that he is winning Wembley finals for Manchester United even when he is meant to be having a day off.

Sir Alex Ferguson revealed the Carling Cup final against Aston Villa was pencilled in weeks ago as the day he would give Rooney "a break." Some break this turned out to be.

Rooney's imposed inactivity lasted precisely 41 minutes until he replaced the stricken Michael Owen. This, according to Villa boss Martin O'Neill, made the final "more exciting" - but not in a good way for his side.

The headed winner, scored 14 minutes from time after a perfect leap and a glorious looping header beyond Brad Friedel, was touched with an air of inevitability. It is just that sort of season for Rooney.

It allowed Ferguson to retain a cup for the first time in his Manchester United career, a remarkable statistic given the scale of his successes at Old Trafford.

United's greater variety made them worthy winners, leaving Ferguson free to quip that he now wants more silverware via the Premier League and Champions League because "he might be too old next season."

No-one was swallowing that, and Ferguson's celebrations on the Wembley turf after the trophy presentations presented concrete proof that the fire raging within this compulsive collector of trophies has not dimmed.

Sir Alex Ferguson holds the Carling CupSir Alex Ferguson has now won 32 trophies as Manchester United manager - Pic: Getty

O'Neill, in the sharpest of contrasts, looked emotionally drained by the pain of defeat and an acute sense of injustice that burned for fully 85 minutes of an entertaining final.

The Villa boss is a renowned criminologist, and he presented a cast-iron case to prove his side were a victim of a grave miscarriage of justice in the incident that saw James Milner give them an early lead from the penalty spot.

Referee Phil Dowd rightly awarded a spot-kick when Nemanja Vidic first tugged at Gabriel Agbonlahor's shirt before fouling him. It was what followed that left O'Neill struggling, understandably, to contain himself in his post-match media briefing.

Quite how Dowd worked out that Vidic's actions as United's last defender had not denied Agbonlahor a clear goalscoring opportunity, and therefore should have been punished with a red card, was mystifying.

It would have taken a large detour of logic - and indeed a large detour by Agbonlahor himself - to suggest he was not moving towards goal. In the language of law student O'Neill, this was an open and shut case.

Vidic should have gone and the fact that he did not even receive a yellow card suggests muddled thinking on behalf of the official.

"It was plain for all to see," said O'Neill with genuine incredulity. "It was inexplicable. I really don't understand it. It's a goalscoring opportunity and he was fouled in the area."

And not many could be found to argue with him.

O'Neill was desperate to stress he was not having a whinge - "this was an otherwise fine referee who got it wrong" - but he had genuine grounds for complaint as James Collins and Stewart Downing were given yellow cards while similar United fouls went unpunished in the early skirmishes.

The Villa boss was also correct when he admitted Dowd's decisions will be forgotten in a few days, and perhaps behind the complaints was the realisation that his side had just come up short.

Villa lacked nothing in effort but a familiar failing of a lack of subtlety proved to be their undoing. Once United decided to defend deeper after early struggles against the pace of Agbonlahor and Ashley Young and the excellence of Milner, Villa did not have the nous to fashion a breakthrough.

Emile Heskey remains a blunt instrument rather than the rapier thrust, and when he was joined late on by the giant, bludgeoning figure of John Carew, Rooney had already ensured the momentum of the final had switched decisively in United's favour.

As Ferguson said: "In the last 10 minutes they threw that big brigade up there. They are all six feet four. It's like the Alamo and you need a wee bit of luck." Sadly for Villa, this ploy also required a bit of luck and they did not get it.

O'Neill and his side will be back, perhaps even in just a few weeks, but sometimes you need more strings to your bow to beat a side as well-versed as United in winning on the showpiece occasion.

In recent weeks, there have been complaints that this blog spends too much time praising Rooney - but even those who do not like it must accept he is making it hard to do otherwise in this wonderful personal campaign.

He was not the only one who excelled for United under Wembley's leaden skies, but for Owen the joy of making a goalscoring contribution to winning his first major trophy since moving to Old Trafford was matched by the frustration of another injury.

Michael Owen scores in the Carling Cup finalMichael Owen's goal reminded Fabio Capello that he is a big occasion player - Pic: Getty

England coach Fabio Capello has been spectacularly unconvinced by Owen's claims for a place at the World Cup, but the way in which he instantly, instinctively swept home United's equaliser after a mistake by Richard Dunne showed shades of his old mastery.

And for the rest of the first half he looked sharp, eager and in the mood to at least give Capello food for thought, if not exactly presenting an undeniable case for an England recall.

Then, chasing a routine ball into the area with Dunne, he pulled up sharply with hamstring trouble. It was probably the moment his England ambitions finally died.

Yes, Capello will have been impressed with the goal - but the greater impression would have been the injury and the hardening of his opinion that Owen does not stay fit enough for long enough, or get enough game time, to warrant serious consideration.

As an unabashed Owen admirer this is a painful admission, but this is now surely the way of it.

Rooney ended the game lifting the Carling Cup, that lovely old League Cup, while Owen stood in his official club suit. It was an image that pointed to the different directions in which they are heading.

Antonio Valencia won the man-of-the-match award, fitting recognition for his increasing influence and a display that did not make it the easiest afternoon for Villa's Stephen Warnock as he attempted to press his England claims in front of Capello.

I asked Ferguson if this was another sign of Valencia's growing maturity as he tries to go some way towards filling the void left behind by Cristiano Ronaldo.

He said: "He needed that win. He knows he's at the right club and it was good for the boy because he has developed all season. He's improving all the time and they just couldn't handle him in the second half. He gave the Villa defenders a real hard time."

In the end, however, no-one could stop Rooney stealing the headlines and the glory again. If this is what he does on his day off, just imagine the havoc he will wreak when he really gets to work.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Rooney is class but Vidic should have been sent off and that would have put a whole new complexion on the game.

  • Comment number 2.

    The Vidic decision was obviously the turning point. You could argue United comfortably held Villa for an hour down at Villa Park recently, however having to come from behind, and play 85 minutes with 10 men, may even have been a bridge to far for United.

    That aside, - and it is difficult to move on from that, or simply forget it, as it probably decided the destination of the trophy,, however I think it is difficult to argue that United deserved the spoils. There is still a very evident gulf in class between the two teams.

    We seen both sides of Michael Owen. The finishing power, that I believe we should take him to the World Cup because of, then another frustrating injury, that is a strong counter argument against taking him. I say take the risk, - he is England's best natural finisher.

    Wayne Rooney in my humble opinion has now established himself as comfortably the best player in the Premier League, and in my opinion is the third best player in the world, behind only Ronaldo and Messi.

    Note: Phil who you tipping now for the prem title, Arsenal have fought back admirably to now have a realistic chance.

  • Comment number 3.

    Last season Phil Dowd sent off a few Man Utd players and was subsequently "got at" by Ferguson for his affrontery. Perhaps this was on his mind when he decided not to send off Vidic and explains the inexplicable. Even Ferguson practically admitted that Dowd got it wrong yesterday - with a wry smile and tongue firmly in cheek no doubt, knowing that his mind games had triumphed once again. Whether it would have changed the outcome is debatable - after all Richard Dunne thinks not- but Villa have every right to feel aggrieved.

  • Comment number 4.

    Okay, so letter of the law Vidic should have gone. But no physical harm was done to any Villa Player. So the net result of the incident was that after 5 minutes of play it was still 11 v 11 and Villa were leading 1-0. Maybe the rule should be changed. By giving the penalty, the crime of "denying a goalscoring chance" has been punished by awarding a gilt-edged goalscoring chance.

    Having given Villa a one goal start and then beating them on a level playing field United showed that the best team won. Isn't that football should be about?

  • Comment number 5.

    How the ref decided not to send Vidic off passes me, and then not book Man Utd players for the same things that Villa players were booked for suprised everyone. Phil Dowd should be downgraded as a ref

  • Comment number 6.

    Vidic should have been sent off, but does anyone else think that maybe the rules should change so a player committing a foul, while they are the last man, should only receive a yellow card? It always seems a bit harsh, as if the ref's saying "I'm sorry, I don't want to, but I have to send you off". A lot of the time if they're the last man it results in a penalty anyway, which I think is enough to make up for the foul - By awarding the penalty the attacking team are offered a clear scoring opportunity for the one they were denied.

    Any thoughts?

  • Comment number 7.

    Vidic may have been lucky to have stayed on , but in my opinion if he had gone the result would have been the same, last month United played at Villa Park with 10 men for an hour and Villa were lucky to get a draw.
    Apart from the penalty Villa only had one shot on target in the match and that ws from their best player Milner.I thought the BBC team of Lineker, Hanson, Shearer, was so anti United it was not true, but I was pleased that they got it so wrong, Hanson in particular is anti United. Frank

  • Comment number 8.

    Seriously, is EVERYONE in football except Phil Dowd a moron?

    A penalty is a goalscoring opportunity, is it not? So how were Villa denied
    a goal-scoring opportunity by Vidic's foul? They had a reasonable one
    (Agbonlahor still had a fair bit of work to do), and it was replaced by a
    much better one (a free shot from 12 yards in the middle of the box).

    It takes some kind of special stupidity to argue that a situation where A
    GOAL WAS SCORED wasn't a goal-scoring opportunity.

  • Comment number 9.

    The conspiracy theories alleging SAF's "mind games" are becoming ridiculous, they make him sound like a cross between Obi-wan and Derrin Brown. I think the ref rightly decided that a sending off in the first five minutes would have spoiled the entire match
    And, after all, its better to be beaten by 11 men than by 10, as Villa already know.

  • Comment number 10.

    I didn't think Villa had much of a chance yesterday.

    Fergie's rant earlier in the season got at Dowd and is the only reason for him not sending Vidic off.

    Strange how Rooney can play perfectly well but has a niggling knee injury that will prevent him from playing for England....

    Overall Man Utd were the better team...but given the huge squad they have they were always going to be fresher coming into this game compared to Villa. Man Utd are a formidable team and do not need the help of the referee.

  • Comment number 11.

    So Vidic's non-sendoff is excusable in some quarters. Thats right, clear defined rules can be administered differently by a referee who is 'muddled'!
    The ramifications for Vidic non-dismissal might even alter the outcomes of EPL structure. No? Game/s which rightfully he should be banned from playing next.

    IMO United's Cup Title is TAINTED!

  • Comment number 12.

    There are as many reds shown to players committing the offence outside the box. So, yellow card free kick when through one on one? How's that fair? The red card is supposed to act as a deterrent to prevent cynical fouls like the one by Vidic. A yellow would merely encourage cynicism and there's surely enough of that to go round as it is?

  • Comment number 13.

    Rooney was actually playing rather poorly before he scored, the goal seemed to give him a boost and he played well after that.

    As for Owen, he took his goal well and did okay behind Berbatov (i have no idea why Owen was playing off Berbatov instead of the other way round for the majority of the half) but his injury was a shame. He's not going to the World Cup, it's time for everyone to forget about the idea.

    Regarding the Vidic incident, it was a clear red card and it's pretty obvious that he wasn't sent off because the game had only just started and the referee didn't want to make it 10 v 11 so early.

    I felt Valencia had a decent game and provided a great assist but for me Berbatov was man of match as he created several openings with his intelligent passing and clever flicks, Park was also excellent and Carrick had a very good second half.

    Villa are a good side but when a team is well organised and defend deep against them, they lack the creativity to create clear chances and have to rely on crossing only (United had Berbatov to create in the final third) which is why i'm suprised United started the game so high up the pitch.

    I'm pleased that United have a trophy already this season.

  • Comment number 14.

    Vidic should have walked according to the rules (daft?) of the game. Don't know whether that would have changed the result - who knows? One thing for sure after yesterdays game - don't take Heskey or Owen to the world cup - please!

  • Comment number 15.

    To Tim Boyde and howardthehunt:

    You both have a similar argument here. I know what your both saying. Surely punsihing a team with a penalty and sending a player off does seem a bit harsh, - a bit of a 'double-whammy' if you like, for only denying a player a chance of a goalscoring opportunity, - and who's to say he would score, however the rules are what they are and in my view are unlikely to change.

    Creating another scenario. The other argument is giving a team a penalty, - albeit a great opportunity to register on the score board, isn't necessarily a severe punishment for the opposing team depending on the outcome. Imagine how sick Vila would have felt if Agbonlahor was bearing in on goal, Vidic hauled him down therefore conceding a penalty, and Milner missed, and Vidic wasn't brandished with a card. They would feel where is the justice in that.

    Good points though by both, your thoughts on my views.

    Note: - Another rule that will probably never come into our game, that is employed in rugby league is the penalty try. I don't know if your both familiar with RL so I will explain. If a player is brought down sinnically and it looks like he/ she is likely to score a try, they are given the benefit of then doubt that they would have scored and a try is awarded.

    I think the 'penalty goal is the furure. Lol. Bit of a long shot.

    As sated above, I welcome replies.

  • Comment number 16.

    s if

  • Comment number 17.

    To bigroy00...Just a point on this "it happened very early" logic on Vidic's foul. Unless I have missed something, it is not up to the referee to decide "that a sending off in the first five minutes would have spoiled the entire match."

    First second or last second should be a matter of supreme indifference to the referee. Are you saying players should be allowed to get away with pretty much everything, effectively have a free shot, if it is early in the game?

    That has always been a ridiculous theory.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Rooney Stealing The Headlines" - That is exactly what he did, i thought his contribution was actually poorer than that of Owen's before his injury, but his shear presence is a threat in its own right, Rooney could have put the tie beyond doubt but either didn't get the run of the ball, or his touch let him down. The fact that he was still a nuisance is why he is undeniably world class.

    Shame for Owen, United fans have been waiting for him to have the chance to fully shine all season, and it looked like he was taking it.

    Valencia played well, but took a while to get going.

    Man of the match was Ji-Sung Park, he was formidable all game, and until his substitution his work rate was tiring to even watch, he should however have got on the score sheet a couple of times.

    Berbetov and Fletcher also had good games. Berbetov's heel was in full flow, i lost count of the number of back heeled passes in and around the penalty box he delivered.

  • Comment number 19.

    I think a red card and a penalty should not go in tandem. This rule needs to be changed. He should have been given a yellow card for sure. The big 4 always get more leeway (although Wenger might disagree) in these matches. It was good that you did actually mention Valencia as he was the most outstanding player on the park.

    N.B. I wish they didn't move the TV camera position down to its new location. You don't seem to get the grandeur of Wembley when it is there.

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree with Tim Boyde #4 , he has got it spot on.

    So everyone can see Phil Dowd made the wrong decision, but it is so difficult to make the correct decison on one viewing, especially with the amount of diving we see these days. I am not in favour of video replays on all decisions but I know that I was not sure if it was a penalty on my first viewing. It is easy with hindsight to have a go but I know I was not 100% sure.

    It really would help if the ref gave a quick statement, who knows, maybe Dowd thought it could be a penalty but WAS NOT 100% SURE, therefore, it was not given.

    What do people think with regards to referees and post match interviews?

  • Comment number 21.

    Rooney was a man amongst boys. He had time, options, passed to his own players, worked hard, tackled, dribbled, created space, always in control and was an education to watch.

    I also took the view that it was a good job for Villa that he wasn't fully fit and playing the whole match.

    Without him Man U are just another side, albeit a good one.

    Best player in the world - I would have thought one of them.

  • Comment number 22.


    Love that idea in relation to RL but can't see it ever happening in footy the idea shows far too much common sense!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Yes Vidic should of been sent off but everyone is missing the fact that even though he wasn't dismissed it was still 11 vs 11 and Villa gave up a one goal lead.

    I thought Wenger was just being his moaning self a few weeks ago but he was right about Villa to an extent. They effectively put six at the back, play long ball and hope one of their quick forwards gets to the ball first, it worked for fifteen minutes at least.

    Lets not deflect away from the fact that Utd more than deserved to win, Villa were poor for a large chunk of the game and like Dunne said, sometimes its harder to play against ten.

  • Comment number 24.

    To Simon Rose...I would love referees to be able to do post-match interviews, but it won't be happening any time soon.

    And I don't wish them to do this so they can stand there saying they got things wrong and be lambasted and shame-faced in public.

    It would be a chance for them to explain decisions - those they got right as well as wrong.

    There have been plenty of occasions when replays have proved referees right when we thought they were wrong, but as I said I don't expect this to be happening.

  • Comment number 25.

    The "compulsive collector of trophies" is the real star of this United team.All others in the cast are bit players,Rooney inclusive.
    This was another predictable blog,considering the fact that earlier in the season you doubted the ability of this Manchester Uniteds team to win anything sans Ronaldo and Tevez.
    The cast of the of the play may change but as long as Sir Alex remains the director of affairs that fourth premiership title and the champions league final remains a possibility .

  • Comment number 26.

    He should of gone the intent was there firstly with the shirt being pulled and what should of made it a no brainer,was the clumsy chop which followed.
    Martin O'Neil as the complete right to moan his socks but being gracious defeat he did not, so fair play to the man for taking it on the chin,Because I do believe villa are strong enough team now to dispose of a ten man utd with a one nil lead.

    I feel gabby done is chances no harm with yesterdays performance, young needs to find more consistency In his game, Milner was playing like an old pro, very much in control and dictating the pace of his teams attacks and possession, I don't think It would hurt capello to have a look at him and the same applies with warnock.

    Carrick doesnt do it for me, to wayward in his shooting which Is a shame because the boy can strike a ball ... his saving grace, always calm on the ball with a great one touch,two touch game.

    I am a owen fan, I would still take him, you never lose what that player as and against the best on the international scene he Is proven, I would take heskey too even if that means an extra striker on board, we need all the charms we can carry body proven or not, only take one game one inspired moment to win it.

    Rooney for me Is No 1 not because he carries the english flag, his game is better rounded then messi and ronalado, the guy as everything a could wan .when the other two wippets lose their pace In time I think there shall be only one player between the three still making an impact and that player is rooney.

  • Comment number 27.

    18 mape_ventura.....Yes! Man of the match was Ji-Sung Park the unsung hero.

    It pained me to say, 'tis, when he was in the lineup against City in the semi, I Knew he would make the difference. Him being on United squad mitigate the loss of Hargreaves. Yes IMO he is better than the the rest of United midfielders.

  • Comment number 28.

    Barhumbug if Vidic wasn't sent off, United would still prove hard to beat and would probably beat most teams with 10 men anyhow. Aston Villa played well, but United had the options and the vaster creativity. Villa should concentrate on finishing fourth or even the FA Cup, which is a bigger trophy than the Carling Cup anyway. But all the focus on the Vidic situation is part o a strategy by the media to have something to talk about in what is an "off week" for International friendlies and the fact that it is TRULY boring talking about another victory for United and YET another trophy for SAF.

  • Comment number 29.

    Im just wondering, With Rooney in this rich vein of form (Especially with his head) If he can keep it going till the World cup. Another excuse for Capello to take Beckham? His crosses on Rooney's head would inevitably result in a goal.

  • Comment number 30.

    My thoughts on the game as a Villa fan (who watched it on TV)

    Wayne Rooney wasn't the deciding factor, the officals were. We can never know how Vidic going off would have changed the game but how about the Villa bookings vs. the ManU non-bookings. That would have rattled the Villa players.

    What about the lino who gave offside for the last (I think) Villa attack? Explain that one.

    The officials undoubtedly favoured Man U but that aside it was a great game of football and the team who played (slightly) better on the day did win.

  • Comment number 31.

    With regard to the foul...Agbonlaghor had not beat Vidic when he was brought down, the "last man rule" ususally comes into play when the attacker has beaten the defender and is brought down when through on goal. This was more of a tangle and should have been a booking, but not a sending off.

    Michael big game Ownen. How can Capello leave him out. If there is a big occasion, he will score. 2001 FA Cup final. 2003 carling Cup Final. Quarter final of 2002 World Cup. France 98.

    Not every body can handle the grand occasion, especially at international level. For me if you put Agbonglahor, Bent, Heksey or anybody else in ahead of Owens you are flogging a dead horse. None of these players have the pedigree that Owen displayed on Sunday, yes he got injured but if we can keep him fit and sharp for 6 weeks in the summer England will be laughing when they need someone on to get a goal.

  • Comment number 32.

    Phil, you say that no-one could stop Rooney from stealing the headlines, and in that statement you unerline your own failings. You are the BBC's Chief Football writer, you choose your own headlines, you don't have to follow what anyone else says. The headline should have been that Dowd's failure to send off Vidic stole the trophy from Villa, but that would require a modicum of original writing on your part, just too much to ask I'm sure?

  • Comment number 33.

    It's amazing how suddenly the rules are daft because it's a Man Utd player that got away with breaking them (yet again). Ask yourself this Man Utd fans, would you have been annoyed if it had been the other way around and a Villa defender had fouled a Man Utd player who was clean through in the penalty area and didn't even receive a card? I am surprised that nobody has really mentioned the number of niggling "obstructions" or accidental clipping on ankles that Man Utd did yesterday, they were clearly designed to slow down Villa players who had some of the Man Utd midfield/defence well beaten for pace. The most blatant one was where Fletcher "accidentally" changed direction of his run so that he slightly caught Ashley Young who was away and clear on the wing, he didn't touch him enough to bring him down, just enough to slow him up a bit and allow the Man Utd defence to position themselves for the cross that eventually came in. It was one of the most cynical things I have seen in a long time but they weren't pulled up for it.

    My biggest worry as regards Rooney for England is if he starts to believe his own hype. It was clear once or twice yesterday that he chose to have a ridiculous shot rather than play in a team mate. We don't want another case of Beckham syndrome where the player cares more about his image than the team! The fact that he did manage to reign it in sometimes is the one saving grace really.

    Still despite all of that it was a true rarity these days, a cup final actually worth watching because both sides went out to win it and not to not lose it!

  • Comment number 34.

    Unless I have missed something, it is not up to the referee to decide "that a sending off in the first five minutes would have spoiled the entire match."

    Phil of course you are right, and no matter what the circumstances i.e. 20/30 or 85 minutes into the game a sending off should be given. Although it shouldn't happen, referee's are swayed by the team, or time the incident occured. You can undertstand why he made, that decision I personally don't feel Fergie's comments would have had any bearing, I feel what made him only give a penalty, rather than award a penalty and sent Vidic off is he wouldn't want the reputation of 'ruining' what could have been potentially a great final which it turned out to be.

    I feel however, it shouldn't be set in stone that when a player is last-man he has to go. It reminds me a lot of the conspiracy that if a player goes down in the box it's either a dive or a penalty. Is there no middle ground? Surely a well-timed tackle in the box, may cause the player to lose his/ her footing. This always seems to be dismissed for whatever reason, and the player is accused of diving.

    I feel the decision whether to send a player off should be based on the likelihood he/ she is going to score, - not based on the player that has the chance, but their position in the box/ field. If a player is brought down in the far corner of the penalty box by the last man, although they are being denied a shot at goal, it is till very much in the balance they are going to score, so perhaps only a yellow card should bransidhed, or perhaps nor card in another area of the pitch where the player is even less likely to score. There needs to be common ground when referee's make this decision, or should I putit like the prevaling oof common sense. Even the rule states now if a player is last man he has to go, it is still very much a grey area, as referee's decisions in thse situations, fluctuate so regualrly.

    In my view the rule needs to be revised, and the decision of whether to brandish a red card should not be as simple as if he is last man, with no cover. Fatorssuch as area of the pitch must surely come into consideration.

    Replies welcome.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    Vidic pulled Agbonlahor down and I think a penalty and a yellow card would have been the correct decision.

    Referees seem to rely heavily on the direction the attacking player is running when the foul is committed. Agbonlahor was running into the penalty area, however, Vidic had managed to get goal side of him when he pulled him down. Later on in the game, Owen was running towards goal when Collins took him down. It wasn't in the penalty area, however, you could say it was a similar to the Vidic foul. Owen had pushed the ball past Collins, and if Collins hadn't taken him down he would have been clear through on goal with no other defenders around. I don't hear Villa fans saying Collins shoud have been red carded rather than receive a yellow.

  • Comment number 37.

    I've never been happy with this idea of sending people off for denying a goal-scoring opportunity. People pay to see top players play football - not to take early baths for one mistake. It just unbalances the game and ruins the spectacle. Players should be removed from the field for dangerous play or repeated fouling, nothing else.

    If a goalscoring opportunity is unfairly denied, the logical punishment should be to concede a goalscoring opportunity. So a yellow card (at most) for the offender, and a penalty for the attacking side whether the offence occurred inside the box or outside.

  • Comment number 38.

    To should be remembered that Vidic had already dragged Agbonlahor by the shirt before he committed the foul that was actually penalised.

    To Jonathan Hewitt...think I might have covered the Dowd/Vidic/Agbonlahor incident with sufficient prominence, judging by the excellent debate people are having about it now.

  • Comment number 39.

    The issue of the goal scoring opportunity is a mad cause initiated by the BBC panel. First, they all got it wrong - United won! Shearer was splitting at seams for Vidic being on the field! Ordinary stuff... If Dowd had shown a red, the panel would have said he robbed the final of a 'decent' game! Damned both ways!

    Three points:

    - Now, Gabby WAS moving away from the goal. He had to beat Kuzs yet, from a tight angle, with the left foot - all things considered. But, instead Villa got a free chance to score and they did. Milner did. (I think there should be rule change where the fouled player SHOULD take the penalty!)

    - Man U CAN play with 10 players. At best it would have been a draw, going to penalties. Or another scenario, and taking all the chances, Man U could have beaten Villa 5-2! Just take the result, it's easier!

    - There's a gap in footballing here. Villa have to fine-tune to go up to United's level. This, BBC panel should understand. Else, there's no point in starting a debate.

    United will always win these kinda games. No question about that, what say Fergie?!

  • Comment number 40.

    If Rooney does a Giggsy and pulls out of an international game while playing for his club I will be disapointed. He obviously has not got Flu or a knee problem

  • Comment number 41.

    I was in the Villa end at Wembley yesterday, and I'm just packing up my bags at the nearby hotel this morning before heading home. I thought Villa gave as good as they got yesterday in a truly exciting game.

    Certainly the United fans in the ground weren't certain of victory, hardly a peep was heard out of them until they went 2-1 up front. Can't fault any of the Villa players for effort but some of them, notably Collins, Dunne and Cuellar all looked a little nervous and unsure of their lines on the big stage.

    Villa will be back and they will be all the better for this final.

  • Comment number 42.

    Labsab9 wrote:


    Love that idea in relation to RL but can't see it ever happening in footy the idea shows far too much common sense!!!

    Pleased you like that idea, but the reason you stated why it won't come in, is the absolute nail on the head, - too much common sense. If your interested in post 34 (which is still currently undergoing moderation I have made what I think are interesting points regarding sending players off if they are the last man)

    Like I say if your interested.

    To Simon Rose:

    Alright Simon!? Good point (re: - ref's giving post-match intervies) and again it comes down to common sense. It is pointless us discussing why Phil Dowd didn't send Vidic off, only he knows why, so what nip it in the bud, and come out and explain his decision. It would save a lot of controversy, and in doing so he would gain a lot of respect.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    There are other implications to Vidic not getting a Red card. It would undoubtedly affect ManU's title defence if they lost an influential player for three matches.

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil, yes you covered red card debate, but you said that "No-one could stop Rooney stealing the headlines" but they could, you could do that, you are the BBC's chief football writer, you choose the headlines, you can write whatever you want to write, you just chose to give the headline to Rooney, using "Rooney steals Wembley show" when "Dowd spoils Villa's day" would have been a more accurate headline.

  • Comment number 46.

    If Rooney could wreak havoc I hope it is in the WC.

  • Comment number 47.

    Will everyone please open their eyes and see what happened with the Vidic tackle, and will the media, instead of perpetuating anti-refeering hyperbole, actually start learning the laws of the game.

    And will people stop stating "the letter of the law" when they clearly don't know the letter of the law.

    The referee made the RIGHT decision!!!!

    The law states that an OBVIOUS goalscorinig opportunity has to be denided. The word OBVIOUS is important here. Just before the foul you can see (if you choose to do so) that Agbonlahor has lost control of the ball and it is actually behind him. Up until this point Vidic has actually done well in getting back and defending the situation well. Then, as Agbonlahor regains control he is facing AWAY from goal (or towards the touchline at least) - AT THIS POINT the foul occurs and a penalty is the correct decision. Now, of course you can argue Agbonlahor had a chance of scoring a goal - BUT, and this is the important thing - it wasn't an OBVIOUS chance - he was facing away from goal and had only just gained control of the ball. The Referee has to be sure that he WOULD have scored, and if there is any doubt he should not give a red card - He was quite right in the decision he made. Richard Dunne actually said in a post match interview that O'Dowd had explained this to him - but again, no one chose to listen.

    Following on from that - people (again wrongly) say "well it was at least a yellow" - again, NO, if you know the law, then the foul is punishable just as it would have been anywhere else on the pitch (other than the award of the penalty obviously) - and if that foul had occured elesewhare then nobody would be baying for a yellow card - its possible it deserved one, but it isn't a case of "the referee has to book him"

    So please, stop now, lets talk about the game but lets stop berating the referee, when he actually made the right decision - and stop saying "by the letter of the law" when you clearly haven't read them! I recommend everyone read Graham Polls new book - its brilliant at putting referring myths to bed and shows just how little most fans (and pundits and reporters!) actually understand the "law"

    Oh and just so you know, I'm not a Villa fan, and I'm as Anti-United as they come - I'm just more Anti-bias-blinkered media/fan reporting!

    There thats my tuppence worth!

  • Comment number 48.

    Please get over it everybody!! United won fair and square.

    Has anybody ever seen Agbonlahor kick a ball without miss hitting it? To any other player it might have been an obvious goal scoring opportunity, but Dowd obviously recognised who it was and decided he would have missed anyway. The only reason he should go to South Africa is to watch as a spectator!!

    And everyone who tells us that the 'rules' are this and that, get your facts right, there are no rules in football.........only LAWS!!

  • Comment number 49.

    11 against 11 Man Utd were by far the better team and deserved to win. Villa did not lose because of the ref, but the ref did deny Martin O'Neils team a man advantage, that had he applied the rules correctly, they should have been entitled to. Whether this would have affected the overall result no one will know, but Villa can claim with justification that they should have had the opportunity to find out.

    It was a cynical foul from Vidic that denied a clear goalscoring opportunity which should have been punished with a red card. I don't know if the referee perhaps decided he didn't want to send someone off that early, or that because it was a penalty it was punishment enough (both of which of course are still outside the laws of the game) but to not even have given him a booking was tantamount to incompetence from the official. I don't believe in conspiracy theories but that was a very poor decision from Phil Dowd yesterday and his relucatance to issue even a yellow that early did not prevent him booking Villa players shortly afterwards, for fouls that went unpunished when committed by Man Utd players. What will add fuel to the fire of the conspiracy theorists is that the same referee next week when he's refereeing say Bolton or Blackburn will have no hesitation in sending the player off.

  • Comment number 50.

    As a side issue to this blog why is there no great outcry about the state of the Wembley pitch which for a showpiece event was a disgrace and is not much better that the Wigan pitch the way is constantly cut up.

    I lost count of the number of times players slipped and/or were embarrassed by the ball bobbling up from the divots in the pitch.

    The FA must sort this out as a matter of priority as it is by no means the first time the pitch has been an issue. Remember the ill-fated England v Croatia Euro Qualifier.

  • Comment number 51.

    I just believe that being red carded, and incurring the subsequent ban is harsh for a 'last man foul'. A penalty is enough, if it's outside the box it's much less likely to be a CLEAR goal scoring opportunity. If Vidic had brought Heskey down I don't think it should even have been a penalty, because there's no chance he would have put the ball in the back of the net anyway!

  • Comment number 52.

    Not sure what the fuss is about. Dowd gave a penalty so he must send the defender off.
    I think Dowd was using his own rule book that states you can not send a player off if it upsets fergie and book villa players but not utd players for the same fouls.

  • Comment number 53.

    r3minder wrote:

    - Man U CAN play with 10 players. At best it would have been a draw, going to penalties.

    As a United fan myself, I am in total agreement with what you say firstly (- Man U CAN play with 10 players), however this sadly quickly turned into total disagreement in the next sentence.

    United have played some great games int the past with 10 men, most recently, - which would indicate they can do it again, in the recent league game at Villa Park.

    However this is a seperate occasion, and although United could take confidence from that performance against Villa, and past occasions when they had played with 10 men, it is impossible to say, I repeat it is impossible to say, - to further emphasise my point that you cannot say at best it would have been a draw, going to penalties.

    The truth is, - to be very final about things, we will never know what would have happened had Vidoc been sent off!

  • Comment number 54.

    @39 What say Fergie? Fergie say 'Vidic decision was lucky'.

    and your points -

    1. Not relevant unless we reshape the penalty box and divide it into further zones. There has to be a line drawn somewhere (Literally!). The rest is bunk unless you change the rules.

    2. Yes but in another scenario - The Large Hadron Collider could cause a black hole leading to the match being abandoned. If, buts and maybes. Let's just talk about what did happen and whether it was fair.

    3. Nobody disputes that ManU are better but should Villa not turn up? We did beat you at OT remember?

  • Comment number 55.


    Another interesting point however another grey area could transpire when you take into account who exactly the chance to score falls to, i appreciate your point but it would matter who the chance fell to.

    Foe example if you have Ruud v Nistelrooy coming in from the edge of the area and into the box the liklihood of a goal increases dramatically than if say Gary Neville had the chance to shoot.

    I think your point does have validity but i believe the variable of exactly who has the chance would distort the decision which would be given.

  • Comment number 56.

    Although I do agree Vidic was very lucky not to be sent off, I believe Villa were very poor to take advantage off their lead. Before the game I thought Villa might suffer due to nerves of being at Wembley in a cup final, but after penatly went in I thought they'd relax and get into their stride. Which they seemed to do until Owen scored. Then they looked lost of ideas and courage.

    On the view that "there have been complaints that this blog spends too much time praising Rooney"; I don't think the complaints are about praising Rooney, which should be given, it's the fact that everyone is saying that Rooney is carrying United. Or the one that really gets me is that United are a one man team. Yes Rooney is scoring the majority of the goals at United, but that's what he is being paid to do! Most of his goals have been headers or tap ins scored within or around the six yard box supplied by a team mate.

  • Comment number 57.

    If you look at the facts from the game yesterday it is clear to see who deserved to win.

    United scored twice and hit the post twice, Villa barely had a shot and scored from a penalty.

    I feel too many villa players did not live up to their potential. Heskey was poor and created next to nothing. There were a few others like this.
    If I was a Villa fan I would be slightly disappointed with their performance as opposed to wondering what would have been if Vidic was sent off.

    I echo #33 richy burger - Great to see an attacking final to which Villa contributed, unfortunately for them not to their full potential.

  • Comment number 58.

    The headline of this article should be something along the lines of "Referee completely bottles it!" I for one, and I suspect the same as many a football fan have absolutely no problem with Dowd's DECISION, the Ref has made entirely the correct DECISION by awarding the penalty however, after making the decision, he has completely and utterly failed to APPLY THE BASIC LAWS of the game and as always, to Man Utd's advantage. The rules are very clear, through on goal, last defender, denied a clear golescoring opportunity. Vidic's tackle ticks all three boxes so, there is not decision to make, at all. The rules of the game take the need any further decision from the Ref away from him. And for all of you Man U fans on here trying to justify it, please do not embarrass yourselves & insult the inteligence of any Football fan with a bit between the ears by claiming that you still would've won. If the shoe had been on the other foot, you would be on here & 606 today calling that Ref uphill & down dale & every other name under the sun! you have been given another trophy - again!

  • Comment number 59.

    32,45 Jonothan Hewitt. You only need to make a bad point once. Good lad Wayne!!

  • Comment number 60.

    38. At 09:48am on 01 Mar 2010, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    To should be remembered that Vidic had already dragged Agbonlahor by the shirt before he committed the foul that was actually penalised.


    Precisely Phil. Now if the foul had been given at that point then, yes...quite rightly - off goes Vidic. However Agbonlahor had cut back on himself, and then went to go again when the tangle ensued.

    Villa got the goal from the penalty and then could not beat Man Utd 11 vs 11. These are the facts, a fact I had to deal with when Everton were overpowered at Wembley last may after our right back went off at half time with sun burn.

  • Comment number 61.

    Vidic should have been sent off, no matter how many minutes were on the clock. The fact he didn't even get a yellow is bemusing. People have said that a sending off would have ruined the game, but imagine if United still won with 10 men, like they came close to at Villa Park, the victory would have been even sweeter, knowing that they won fair and square.
    However, Villa scored the penalty and were 1-0 up and for the rest of the game United were the better team with far more chances that Villa who really only created one chance, a pretty easy save from Milner's shot.
    Berbatov was man of the match in my opinion, working hard, holding the ball up and too many delicate, effective passes in and outside of the box to count. Closely followed by Valencia who was a greater crosser for half of the game. Park was also his hard-working self, but should have scored, sums him up really. Personally I thought Rooney was poor until he scored his goal and after that was brilliant.
    On the rule change about no red cards for fouls in the box, this will never happen, defenders would just take people down just so the keeper has a chance to save the penalty.

  • Comment number 62.

    @40 - I think a lot of United fans might disagree with you. They would rather see a fit Rooney firing on all cylinders for United than playing a meaningless friendly for England.

    Even from an England perspective I don't see the point in playing him Wednesday. We all know he's going to the World Cup, so what's the point in risking him, especially considering Capello allegedly wants him rested so he's fit for South Africa?

    As for the penalty debate, what are people's views on penalty goals (similar to a penalty try in rugby). Not necessarily for incidents like Vidic, but what about if a defender uses his hands to clear off the goal line? A certain goal replaced by a penalty that might be missed. Thoughts?

  • Comment number 63.

    In regards to the refs giving interviews after games...

    This was tried at the start of a season a few years ago and lasted a week. An incident in a Sheffield United V Liverpool game (opening day of the season I think) lead to Rob Styles saying in an interview with SKY straight after the game that he awarded a penalty to Liveprool because Steven Gerrard was brought down by a defender. Sky told him there had been no contact and he had made a mistake. He was then interviewed by the BBC in which he said he gave the penalty because there had been an intent to foul by the Sheffiled United defender, he realised contact hadn't been made but that didn't matter because there was intent. Styles changed his story and made a total mockery of the procedure. Not suprisingly that incident quickly brought and end to the after match interview with the ref.

  • Comment number 64.

    What a surprise, United win a trophy and this blog is littered with the usual childish 'referee bias' moans and groans. In the semi-final United had a ridiculous penalty awarded against them at City, yet they got over it got through.

    On a sidenote, "Benitez mocks Blackburn's style".

    Is that comedy headline of the year? Watching Liverpool this season has been akin to root-canal surgery.

  • Comment number 65.

    I think it's interesting that, for all that the powers that be tinker with the laws of the game, players aren't adjusting their behaviour. We are now getting routine sendings off for professional fouls of this type, and the incidence of 'mandatory' yellows (kicking the ball away, taking shirt off after scoring a goal, shirt pulling, diving, asking that a player be booked and so on) doesn't seem to be diminishing. Nor do two-footed lunges seem to be any less common.

    So either the laws are taking a VERY long time to sink in, or we have to accept they have a punitive rather than deterrent effect. This should feed in to the types of punishment we impose. Do we want players to be sent off? Not really - it ruins the game - so we have to think of better punishments for offences. Awarding a penalty for any professional foul (see my earlier post) is just one example. Another thing - we have to accept that not all red cards are equal, and that should feed in to how long players are banned for.

  • Comment number 66.

    #47 You missed out the fact that Vidic was cynically pulling Agbonlahor's shirt before the final lunge in the box. This was when Agbonlahor had control of the ball and was running towards goal in a clear goal scoring opportunity. It is also an interpretation these days in the Premier League that if you come off your feet and don't get the ball that it is a yellow card. Again Vidic comes off his feet and doesn't get the ball.

    I'm sure, watching the replay you could find a reason why it shouldn't have been a red but as Ferguson admits Vidic was lucky not to be sent off and in anyones rules deserved at least a yellow.

  • Comment number 67.

    Jamie Riley -

    We won, so that's good!

    Actually, you've missed a point there - I have said that it's easier to just take the result. It stems out from all the rest is just rhetorical. I implied that.



    1. Yes I did suggest to change the rules. Gabby should've taken the penalty! But seriously, it's not bunk if you consider that you did score from an unlikely scoring opportunity. That's the point.

    2. Yes, let's just talk about what happened. We won 2-1! How about that for a change?

    3. Yes, you won at OT. And how many other times have you? It would be good if you realise NOT to mention the OT game too often, for it would only contribute to your hanging on to such one-offs! This is what makes the second tier teams NOT making a habit of beating Man U!

    That's the truth.

  • Comment number 68.

    Man United were the better team yesterday over the 90 minutes and deserved to win, however the referees decision not to implement the rules had a huge effect on the game.

    We will never know what would have happened if Vidic had of gone, Milner may have missed the penalty.

    I'm sure though Villa would have had more of a chance being 1 nil up playing 10 men. United would also have probably had to bring on Brown or Neville at the back and take of a midfielder or forward.

    Villa would have had more of the ball, they may have created more and scored more.

    I'm gutted still but saying that villas failings were seen again, but then you have to look and see that we are playing against a club who has been the last 2 champions league finals, won the league 3 years in a row. So to push them so much in a final is a great effort by our boys, but it shows what we have to do to push on, we need a world class finisher and creative midfielder.

    We have played united 3 times this season and its 1 draw and 1 win each, so we're definitely improving.

    I thought Owen and Berbatov played well, i thought Valencia was the best player on the pitch and he gave warnock a hard time, especially in the 2nd half, although warnock didnt get a great deal of help.

    The equaliser was a big disappointment for us as well, a mistake by Dunne, and that followed an earlier mistake by Cuellar, we just didnt seem as settled yesterday, i think nerves had a bit of an affect.

    Im hoping that this disappointment will drive us forward for the rest of the season, we have a fa cup 1/4 final on sunday, and a couple of games in hand in the league.

    I will be extremely disappointed if we fade away, this should spur us on, and if it doesnt it says a lot about mental attitude.

    All in all a good final, exciting, 1 poor decision clouded the game, but on the match itself and how it was reffed the best team one.

    Villa are a couple of players away from challenging the top 4 regularly, now id the time to spend.

    I believe we can win the fa cup and finish 4th - keep the faith.

    As for the clown at number 8, you obviously dont no much about football.

    I also heard Graham Poll on 5 live who said that technically the ref got it right and that he didnt have to send him off, God love us when we are listening to this man as an expert, remember his finest moment in the world cup - 3 yellows to get a red!!

    As mentioned by another poster, the lack of sending off at that time or later of Vidic will have an impact on the rest of the season, a straight red would have meant Vidic could not play for 3 games, thereby weakening United, he is now free to play in 3 games he shouldn't be playing in.

    Come on Villa.

  • Comment number 69.

    "Wayne Rooney's golden streak is now so unstoppable that he is winning Wembley finals for Manchester United even when he is meant to be having a day off."

    I read this opening statement and decided to read no more. Slightly over the top don't you think Phil? "winning Wembley finals", prey, tell me what other Wembley final Rooney has won (as in scored the winner)?

    Yes, Rooney's form is great, he's finally scoring the goals he was meant to, although it has come at a cost of 4 assists. However, Phil, is his form any better than Drogba's? (who has scored a few less goals, yet missed a month) Is it any better than Torres a few years ago, or even Luca Toni in his Fiorentina days? The answer is no. Rooney is a great player, no doubt, but many (including myself) think he is overrated, which is unfair on the poor lad as it is not his fault, it is the media's. Does a headed goal, coming from the bench, deserve this sort of RIDICULOUS media coverage and blatent blowing up of Rooney? No. But it's because he's English right Phil?

    I mean he's been praised for years and years despite never showing this kind of class before, and now this is as if it's your perfect excuse.

    Please, this Rooney-praising has gone too far. Yes, he's scored many goals, but the foreign footballing world do not seem to rate him as highly as the likes of Messi, Ronaldo or even Luis Fabiano. and unfortunatly, I'm starting to think that the foreign footballing world knows a hell of a lot more than the English Media, who don't support thier (ex) captain, blame the greatest player in EPL history for a red card that ROONEY earnt, demonise the likes of Ashley Cole because they prefer his showbiz wife (are you real football fans?)and of course disown David Beckham the moment he gets a red card, and then jump back on him when he wins the treble.

    For what it's worth Phil, I usually really enjoy your blog, but this week I'm not even bothering.

  • Comment number 70.

    "Not sure what the fuss is about. Dowd gave a penalty so he must send the defender off."

    What a load of cobblers. Can you point us to the passage in the Laws Of The Game that say if a penalty is awarded the defending player must be sent off? 95% of penalties don't result in red cards.

    And as for everyone saying "the rules are wrong and should be changed, but as they stand now Vidic did have to get a red", you clearly haven't read them either. The Laws Of The Game do NOT specify that any player committing a foul in the box has to be sent off. Villa were NOT denied a goalscoring opportunity by the foul, because the foul resulted in a penalty kick, which is just about the best goalscoring opportunity in football. It's that simple.

  • Comment number 71.

    LABSAB9 wrote:

    i appreciate your point but it would matter who the chance fell to.

    Foe example if you have Ruud v Nistelrooy coming in from the edge of the area and into the box the liklihood of a goal increases dramatically than if say Gary Neville had the chance to shoot.

    My reply:

    Of course you would fancy RVN to finish a chance over Gary Neville any day of the week. However the player who has that opportunity shouldn't influence the referee's decison, although it invariably does.

    Regardless of who the player is and his/ her likelihood to score the decision has to be the same. I feel we need to forget this rule about if your last man - your off, as stated above surely the area of the pitch the incident occured should be the deciding factor whether to send the player off/ award him/ her with a yellow card or let them away with nothing, - only conceding the foul.

    The rules have to be consistent Labsab 9 - I'm sure you agree. You can't go making decisions on the player that has the opportunity, it should be based on the area of the pitch.

    Thanks for the reply however.

  • Comment number 72.

    Should have would have could have, what a load of nonsense. The BBC reports the player had his back to goal...? I didn't see the incident. I missed it completely. It sounds pretty dodgy to me that the reason Villa didn't win is because United got to play the whole game with 11 men? What sort of competition is it, and what sort of players and managers have been produced where there is no a required handicap to win a game of soccer. It's utter rubbish. Phil you could have written a piece on Valencia instead of Rooney, after all it is you who said he wouldn't match Ronaldo on the wing, and that United would suffer without Ronaldo. The Evidence is clear, Valencia is doing a great job and has come on very quickly since the first couple of months, United are stronger this season than last in goals scored albeit they have lost more games, due to injuries perhaps... Dying to see your piece on how they have adapted, and why you think Rooney and his form is so different to the last two seasons.

  • Comment number 73.

    58,61 - Read my post again @47 - and watch the replay...

    (Postion to 1:04:45)

    And WATCH it... Agbonlahor loses control before Vidic touches him - even Lawrenson says so... "it looked like he was going to go through on goal then he seemed to miscontrol the ball"....

    It was NOT a CLEAR and OBVIOUS goalscoring opportunity. Of course he MAY have scored, but once he lost control it was no longer CLEAR AND OBVIOUS

    Therefore no red card, and was the foul serious enough for a yellow? I doubt it...

    As a footnote - Lawrenson and Guy Mowbray then show themselves ignorant of the laws. Despite Lawrenson earlier saying he lost control of the ball - he goes on at say @ 1:06:15 that Vidic denied a goal scoring opportunity and should get a Red - contradicting himself.... and then Mowbray says "at the very least it should have been a yellow" - Why exactly? see my post #47

    Please - drop this now.... It SHOULD be a non-story!

  • Comment number 74.

    From the comments by certain managers you can already determine who are great managers, and who is just good. And it all comes down to that last little bit of gusto and mental edge.

    Take for example when Mark Hughs with city played Man Utd. Mark was furious that there was 6 minutes extra time given. So it got me questionning Marks mentality. City just equalised they on a high, and Mark would have actually been more happy than Fergie as his side had the same chance, the same 6 minutes to win the game. But his unhappiness of extra time, almost showed the public that he believed city is second rate and they deserved a draw and he'll be happy with it.

    Same on Sunday, O'neill was furious because Vidic was not sent. Yes he should have been, but the point is any top manager would have been more than happy just to be ahead in 4 minutes. It was a free gift to him. M O'N was wanting so much to play against 10 men is almost like saying we can only beat united when they have 10 men and we not good enough even if we get a free goal.

    You never heard ancelotti complain on saturday. All he said was chelsea had a bad day and we are still on top. He sounded confident, he sounded like they going to win the league. Hence he is so such a good manager.

    Managers like these are very few, hence England had to get a foreign manager because besides SAF there does not seem to be any outstanding one. Oneil, Moyes etc are very good tactfully. They do outstanding with the resources they have. They very good but they lack that last bit of cutting edge no nonsense approach, I'll win at all costs mindset

  • Comment number 75.

    In terms of the Vidic debate, yes, he should have been sent off. Phil is right when he says that it should be irrelevant to the referee whether the offence takes place in the first or last minute of the match.

    #19 makes a good observation that no-one else has really commented on: I too didn't like the lower placing of the TV camera for the game. Please rstore it to its old position slightly higher up, it makes for much better viewing. Is anyone from the Beeb able to explain why the decision to change the position was taken?

  • Comment number 76.

    #66 - No Vidic didnt have hold of his shirt at the time Agbonlahor lost control - he just got back along side him and that was enough - watch the replay (see #73) and WATCH CLOSELY - the shirt tug comes as Agbonlahor is trying to regain control - hence the angle of the shirt tug...

    Anyway - I'm bored with this now - people will only choose to see what they want to to suit their argument.

    Thats the problem with the game I love, full of blinkers, bias, moaners and lacking in sincerity and respect...

  • Comment number 77.

    Seriously, is EVERYONE in football except Phil Dowd a moron?

    A penalty is a goalscoring opportunity, is it not? So how were Villa denied
    a goal-scoring opportunity by Vidic's foul? They had a reasonable one
    (Agbonlahor still had a fair bit of work to do), and it was replaced by a
    much better one (a free shot from 12 yards in the middle of the box).

    It takes some kind of special stupidity to argue that a situation where A
    GOAL WAS SCORED wasn't a goal-scoring opportunity.


    I agree with this guy,agbonlahor is simply AWFUL at 1v1 situations and I fully expected him to get a corner if he hadn't been tackled after the shot being saved.

    But that isn't being completely serious as it shouldn't mean that as he is awful at 1v1s it shouldn't mean he was sent off. With the seeming bias that the ref has yesterday towards delivering cards i'm pretty sure if it was dunne or collins they would have been sent off.

  • Comment number 78.

    As if any ref is going to send a United player off in the first five minutes of a Cup final.

  • Comment number 79.

    To summarize this final:
    very poor defending from both sides
    Owen scored a very straightforward chance then got injured, hardly a surprise
    sympathetic refereeing for Man Utd
    Rooney allowed the space he’s now used to, and
    very poor defending!

  • Comment number 80.

    The exact wording of the relevant law:

    Sending-off offences are:
    "denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving
    towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a
    penalty kick"

    So Dowd was in the right either if the goal-scoring opportunity wasn't obvious or the player wasn't moving in the direction of the goal. My opinion - you couldn't successfully argue either of those. Gabby would have been free to shoot from close range (left peg or not, it makes no difference). So Dowd got it wrong, and I'm not sure why Graham Poll thinks otherwise.

  • Comment number 81.

    pdlepage wrote:

    As for the penalty debate, what are people's views on penalty goals (similar to a penalty try in rugby). Not necessarily for incidents like Vidic, but what about if a defender uses his hands to clear off the goal line? A certain goal replaced by a penalty that might be missed. Thoughts?

    Pdlepage I mentioned that earlier (post 15) (see below)

    Note: - Another rule that will probably never come into our game, that is employed in rugby league is the penalty try. I don't know if your both familiar with RL so I will explain. If a player is brought down sinnically and it looks like he/ she is likely to score a try, they are given the benefit of then doubt that they would have scored and a try is awarded.

    I like you would like this rule to be brought in however I can't help but feel it would be very controversial. One argument aginst it is in rugby if a player is sinically brought down by their last man, and the only thing to stop him/ her scoring a try is if he/ she drops the ball, trips etc, (a very unlikley happening nontheless), - then in my opinion it is fair to award a try.

    The argument against this in football, is in football there will only be a goal to stop the player scoring, - your just relying on a bizarre incident such as the player slipping etc. The only this would work is if the goalkeeper happens to be the last man. Then I feel the decision to award a goal would be justified.

    I also feel people would be in support of this proposal until it worked against their team, and then it would go down like a lead balloon.

    Your thoughts on that?

  • Comment number 82.

    Manchester United won the tie and the Carling Cup, but, although I support Manchester United, I feel as though it was robbed from Aston Villa.

    I haven't read responses to this blog yet, but, I too, can't understand why Vidic wasn't sent off, neither was given at least a yellow card. It was a red card offence and it influenced the rest of the game.

    It is not about whether Aston Villa having been unable to beat us when we have 10 men on the field. It is about fair play.

    All I will keep from this match is the sense that when playing against teams that are good in counter attacking (Liverpool match matters to us), Manchester United are more comfortable when defending deep.

  • Comment number 83.

    Vidic should have been sent off. There is no realistically denying this, as had he not grabbed Agbonglhor's shirt, let alone brought him down afterwards, he would have gone on and scored. That, by the letter of the rules, is a penalty and sending off offence for denying a goalscoring chance. Playing against 10 men for the entire game and having gone one goal up, who knows how that would have affected the end result?

    The time a foul is committed, and where it is commited, are irrelevent to the question of what punishment should be recieved. Referees are there to enforce the rules of the game, not interpret them to what they think is fair or makes a better game.

    Even had Vidic been shown a yellow for that tackle, which showed a laughable inconsistency on the referee's part when he proceeded to book two Villa players for similar tackles straight afterwards, he would have walked midway through the second half and Villa might have had a chance to get back into the game. The fact that Man Utd were better 11 vs 11 then Villa is irrelevent, because the whole point is that they shouldn't have HAD 11 men after the first five minutes.

    United depended on two things to win that Cup- Rooney and an awful referee's decision. Nothing can be done about the former, but a lot can and should be done about the latter. Otherwise we get teams winning matches, and eventually titles, that they don't deserve.

  • Comment number 84.

    @67 Ha! I obscenity in the milk of thy arrogance! :)

    1. Look at the play from when Gabby passed Vidic, how he tugged his shirt to catch back up, the trip at 5yds in diagonal to the goal. I don't agree with your analysis. But it's all opinion, isn't it.

    2 & 3. We won at OT and THAT is a change. Villa v. ManU is a lot closer this year than for a looooooong time. Villa v. Any other big club is a lot closer for the last two or three years of steady progress. The fact we compete is a change, don't you think?

    We could have won but we didn't and the major talking point is not the great football but a bad performance by the ref.

    And that's the truth.

    But no hard feeling to Man U fans.

  • Comment number 85.

    #77 JamesD19

    Please, please, please, go away and learn the rules of teh game. The decision as to whether he was denided a goalscoring opportunity (I don't think it was, as my other posts show) is taken at the time of the foul!!!

    Are you seriously suggesting you know what you are talking about when you suggest the penalty then takes over the "goalscoring opportunity" decision.

    Moderator - please, can you add to your list of rules to ignore people who post nonsense ;-)

  • Comment number 86.

    I agree entirely with poster 80 for providing a succient display of why Vidic should have walked. Poster 74- I don't see anything wrong with wanting the laws of the game to be upheld correctly at all times, especially when it costs someone as much as it did O'Neill. He should be lauded for that, not criticised.

  • Comment number 87.

    Re 78. Stuart_MCFC wrote:
    "As if any ref is going to send a United player off in the first five minutes of a Cup final."

    As if any ref is going to give a penalty against United for an offence that happened five yards outside the box in the semi-final against city. Wait, hang on...

    Joking aside, you have stumbled upon a good point. Referees DO bottle big decisions early in games. However, for you to cite it as some form of pro-United bias, is sour grapes and deluded. Referees bottle big decisions all the time - United have been on the wrong end many times this season.

  • Comment number 88.

    #83 Swmystery

    I refer you (and everyone else) to my posts #47,73,76

    Please - watch it again (and I mean watch, closely, watch what happens rather than what you THINK happens) - and rethink what you are saying!!!

    Bottom line - Agbonlahor had lost control and was in the processes of trying to regain it when the shirt pull and foul happened - it was not a CLEAR AND OBVIOUS opportunity...

    Well done referee (as as I said, I'm as Anti-United as they come, I just hate people stating faction as fact!)

  • Comment number 89.

    Phil, perhaps you can clear something up for me on this issue. I seem to recall that EUFA made a proposal 2 or 3 years ago that, in regard to so called "professional fouls", if it happened inside the area then a red card should not be administered as the award of a penalty kick should be deemed sufficient punishment. (After all, you have not denied a goalscoring opportunity, have you - it still exists with the penalty). If on the other hand the offence is committed outside the area, then you can justify a red card on the basis that otherwise the punishment would not deter the offenders sufficiently.

    On a slightly different angle, am I right in thinking that the wording of the current rule (preventing a clear goalscoring opportunity) makes no mention of having to be the "last" defender? If so, why is it interpreted that way - there must be times when an attacker has a good chance of scoring and they are fouled by someone who is not the last defender.

    Finally, do you think the current rule is actually correctly constructed? I understood the intention was to eliminate the professional foul i.e. to stop defenders from cynically impeding an attacker. It seems to have come to be applied to any occasion of a "foul", even if there is a legitimate attempt at a tackle, or if the foul is inadvertent (e.g. Belletti).

  • Comment number 90.

    I think you have missed the point about the criticism of your love affair with Rooney Phil. By all means praise him after the final. Anyone who comes on and scores the winner is deserving of great praise. The header was quite simply superb, the precision placement of the ball gave the keeper no chance and handed Manchester United the cup! Excellent!

    Praise him when he does well Phil – but not when he does badly as you have done previously. The logic of him being a great player because Manchester United lost the other week is still baffling to me – almost as baffling as the referees decision not to send Vidic off... or not to book him even! (the fact he picked up a yellow in the second half means that even the most ardent of Manchester United fans must admit he should not have been on the pitch at the final whistle).

    There are a couple of points to think about here – obviously we cannot say that the referee cheated, but unquestionably his refereeing favoured United. Villa players were booked for fouls that United were able to get away with. The worst moment for all was when he called Rafael over after the defender had taken down a Villa player. Having booked Villa players for their first fouls he then signalled to various points on the pitch where Rafael had committed fouls and gestured – ‘no more!’ No more what exactly? No more bookable offenses or I’ll book you?

    Martin O Neil comes away from the game with tremendous credit for behaving in a dignified and respectful manner despite the fact his side had been on the rough end of the decisions. His side looked comfortable in possession and had it been a league game they would have been well worthy of a draw. They are clearly a side maturing, and now able to compete with the big boys of the league on their day. Milner has proved he is world class – not that anyone who has watched him over the past few years would have ever really doubted that fact. What was not world class was the display of the referee and surely something must be done about that.

    Martin O Neil believes people will forget... Phil agrees. If they do it won’t be because the decision wasn’t important, it will be because this is just one of the many decisions that have gone for the big sides – they are too numerous to mention! The penalty was a sending off – but to not even book the player is unbelievable.

    Is this perhaps because the referee knows Martin O Neil will be gracious though his team have been treated harshly, whereas Alex Ferguson will hurl a tirade of abuse at him for doing the right thing? Surely this shouldn’t play on his mind during the match.

    Is it because he is aware it is a cup final and the spectacle might be less impressive if Manchester United are a man down? Surely this shouldn’t play on his mind during the match. If either of these were the reason there was no card shown it is unacceptable, but part of the blame must be given to the media. Referees who show red cards early are often criticised for not using their common sense by the press. Journalists too print the nonsensical rants of the Fergusons and Wengers of the world not because they are right but because they make good headlines.
    The point here is that ‘common sense’ or ‘the pressure of the occasion’ or whatever you want to call it has made the referee abandon the laws of the game. No one expects the referees to be perfect, and human error applies to referees just as it does to players.

    Had the man in black given a corner this would not be such a big talking point. With his vision obstructed, or too far away to be certain, the referee could have thought Vidic touched the ball and therefore it wasn’t a penalty. Had this happened it would have been a mistake, but an understandable one. The reason the entire final is a farce was because the referee saw the incident and deemed it to be a penalty, therefore it had to be a sending off – but he did nothing.

    At the risk of sounding Neil Warnock-like I hope he is severely reprimanded after this match and doesn’t get to referee games of such importance again. He clearly cannot handle the responsibility. He is not there to ensure the game is entertaining – he is there to enforce the rules. He failed – and gave United one hand on the trophy.

    I hope Capello was watching Michael Owen though, yes he came off injured but he showed that he is true class and can handle the big occasion. There aren’t too many like him in the game.

  • Comment number 91.

    Graham Polls view is interesting. I thought that Agbonlahor had pushed the ball to the left before he was fouled, giving some doubt. Personally I expected Vidic to go, but then why was there no furore when Collins brought Owen down?
    On another matter, how can we spend £800m or so on a stadium with a roof, and still provide a second class playing surface where all players struggled to keep their footing?

  • Comment number 92.

    #66 - No Vidic didnt have hold of his shirt at the time Agbonlahor lost control - he just got back along side him and that was enough - watch the replay (see #73) and WATCH CLOSELY - the shirt tug comes as Agbonlahor is trying to regain control - hence the angle of the shirt tug...

    But a shirt tug is a yellow card is it not? So is coming off your feet and not getting the ball (in the Premier League at least), yet Dowd did not give Vidic even a yellow card. You argued that the letter of the law says it isn't a red, yet you seem equally unwilling to apply the letter of the law that there were two yellow card offences. Referee for whatever reason didn't send the player off and we could argue on the pros and cons of that, but to not book him was a frighteningly bad decision from one of our top refs.

  • Comment number 93.

    re #68 - don't you only get 3 games for violent conduct?

  • Comment number 94.

    Graham Poll is a disgrace as a former referee for such awful position and analysis. No wonder he once issued three yellow cards. Pathetic.

  • Comment number 95.

    88- Are you saying, that had Vidic not been there, that Gabby would not have scored? I think that's unjustifiable, personally, because it's obvious to me that he would have. Therefore, Vidic denied him a goalscoring oppourtunity. Therefore, he should have been sent off. Simple.

  • Comment number 96.

    By the anybody else realising the fact that Vidic is a very vulnerable player at times. When he is exposed one on one he is simply terrible. I think credit should go to ferdinand who makes this guy look a better player than he is. Fergiue doesn't often get it wrong but he must feel that Shawcross and Pique could have formed a splendid Man Utd centre back pairing for the next 10 years.

  • Comment number 97.

    I agree that Vidic shouldn't have been sent off. It looked a bad tackle, but since Vidic was inside, to get past agbonlahor would have had to move away from goal for a very short instance. However, not sending off is one move. Not even giving a yellow for a very bad tackle is unexplainable.

  • Comment number 98.

    Goal scored or not, the rule is that it's a red card. If you have referees changing the rules on the pitch you're in trouble. The referee is free to get it wrong, say, by deeming it not a clear goal scoring opportunity, as seems to be the referees' defence. But anyone suggesting he did the right thing in not awarding a red because Villa got a penalty anyway is really opening a can of worms.

    Having said that, he didn't give Vidic a yellow either. This surely, is more than poor referee judgement. Dowd really should be facing some sort of repercussions. Can anyone really watch that incident and make even as tenuous a case as Poll's alleged "Agbonlahor could maybe have been deemed to be heading away from goal kind of" defence of Dowd? Fine, give Dowd the benefit of the doubt (massive benefit, little doubt) for avoiding a red card but how Vidic possibly got away without a yellow is a question that's a lot more difficult to answer.

    Not to say the Cup is tainted as someone else claimed, United played better and deserved the win. But aside from the actual result of the match and plaudits United will deservedly get, this other issue should be addressed.

  • Comment number 99.

    I've read alot of complaints on here about the ref, yes maybe vidic could have seen red, but it would be a brave ref to do so in the 1st 5mins of a cup final.

    The remainder of the complaints are regarding utd players getting away with tackles and villa players getting booked. To my recollection the worst tackle of the game came form carlos cuellar on evra (i think at the end of the 1st half) and went unpunished (ignoring the free kick), then evra was booked shortly after for a nothing tackle. It goes both ways, you can't say the referee booking or not booking player had that big an effect on the outcome.

  • Comment number 100.

    Seems to me that Rugby has the best option, penalty tries are awarded where a cynical act takes place preventing a scoring opportunity.

    You can argue that you will see too many in football but surely if the deterrent is strong enough, it will reduce the numbers of incidents (how many do you see in rugby ? Few, and I suggest that is because teams know the punishment means there is no advantage to acting cynically as defenders will realise that the opposition will be GIVEN a try/goal. There is no chance to miss the opportunity from the penalty spot so they have nothing to gain from their actions. No cards to be issued unless the foul is one that would be merited i.e a tackle from behind.

    As with most cynical things in football, things would improve if the deterrent was strong enough but the authorities are not interested, all they are interested in is ensuring the cash cow is not rocked, damn the fact that they are the guardians of the game, a fact they seem to have lost


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