Mark Holmes has praise for Mark Clattenburg and Jurgen Klopp but criticism for Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal following the weekend’s action.
LUCAS RIGHT TO PRAISE CLATTENBURG
“Sometimes in my position you make fouls, more to stop the game.”
In attempting to praise Mark Clattenburg’s decision not to show him a second yellow card in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Chelsea on Saturday, it could be argued that Lucas hardly presented the best case for his defence.
“I think it was a good decision from the referee, he controlled the game very well,” the Reds midfielder added.
“If you think in England, where many situations are sometimes a little bit strange when nobody uses the whistle… in a situation like this was it a sure yellow card?” Klopp said.
As Klopp pointed out, English referees are renowned for leniency compared to their continental counterparts – and generally this is welcomed by football supporters and pundits on these shores.
Or at least it is until a player has already been booked, at which point there appears to be a growing opinion that any further foul should result in a red card.
Chelsea suffered from that school of thought the previous week at West Ham when Nemanja Matic was shown a second yellow card for pulling back Cheikhou Kouyate on the touchline, and it is that inconsistency that undoubtedly irked Mourinho when Lucas escaped the same punishment.
I’m in the minority on this issue, as I regularly find out in our Ref Review feature, but for my money there is a growing problem with referees showing too many yellow cards, not too few. Matic shouldn’t have been sent off at Upton Park, and neither should Lucas at Stamford Bridge.
Lucas committed five fouls before picking up his first booking; why did his sixth and final foul of the match, a pretty unremarkable one at that, warrant a second? There is certainly nothing in the laws of the game to suggest a trip in the opposition half is worthy of a booking.
Refereees are sometimes stupidly accused of ruining games in which they have handed out red cards, but they have no choice but to follow the rules. If a player commits an offence worthy of a dismissal, a referee must show a red card regardless how long has gone or how finely a game is poised.
In the case of yellow cards, however, a more common sense approach is needed to avoid players, like Matic at West Ham, being sent off for only two minor infringements. In those cases, a referee could quite justifiably be accused of needlessly ruining a game. In the case of Clattenburg at Stamford Bridge, however, he deserves praise, not criticism.
MOURINHO FAILING ON AND OFF THE PITCH
Mourinho refused to answer questions about the Lucas incident, suggesting that he would face more disciplinary action were he to criticise Clattenburg’s decision.
Even ignoring the fact that the player luckiest to avoid a red card was Diego Costa, for shoving his studs into the midriff of Martin Skrtel, Mourinho again showed himself to be clueless when it comes to commenting about the match officials.
He may not believe it, but Mourinho could have said that it was an awful decision not to send-off Lucas if that is what he believed. He could even have said that Clattenburg was atrocious throughout and still not faced sanctions. There are no laws which state a manager cannot criticise the performances of the match officials.
It is why, much to Mourinho’s apparent disbelief, Arsene Wenger avoided punishment for describing Mike Dean’s performance as “weak and naive” following Arsenal’s defeat at Chelsea earlier in the season.
What managers cannot do is question the integrity of the referee or imply that there was bias or favouritism shown towards either team. When suggesting that Bobby Madeley was “afraid” to give Chelsea a penalty against Southampton last month, Mourinho quite clearly broke the rules.
Having got himself into trouble with the Football Association countless times in the past, Mourinho almost certainly understands what he can and cannot say after games, but his refusal to answer seven of the nine questions put to him after Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool was another sign of a man who is often described as being calculated in everything that he says.
While other managers, Wenger chief among them, are often ridiculed for losing their rag in post-match press conferences, it has regularly been suggested that Mourinho’s outbursts are simply his way of taking pressure off or diverting criticism away from his players.
Following his behaviour this season, that theory can surely now be consigned to the scrap heap. Mourinho’s ‘us against the world’ rhetoric isn’t a clever game, it’s the sign of a manager quite clearly feeling the pressure.
KLOPP GETS INSIGHT INTO PRESS MENTALITY
Jurgen Klopp got a taste of the English press’ famed ‘build them up to knock them down’ culture when asked following Liverpool’s win whether his side could win the Premier League title this season.
“Oh please. Are you crazy?” was the response of the German, who reacted in similar fashion when asked in a later interview about the Reds’ top-four chances: “I can’t believe that England is so impatient!”
Going into the game on the back of draws against Tottenham, Rubin Kazan and Southampton before a 1-0 win over Bournemouth in the Capital One Cup, Klopp was right to be reserved. They were undoubtedly the better of the two teams at Stamford Bridge, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Two years and thousands of ridiculous questions down the line, Klopp may be no less of a buffoon in front of a media than Mourinho is currently, but for now he is a breath of fresh air. His analysis of Saturday’s game was fantastic. This is a man that wants to talk about football and tactics, not media vendettas and FA conspiracies.
There is an awful long way to go, but Liverpool fans finally have reason to feel justifiably optimistic about the future. And the no longer have a manager that will embarrass them every time he opens his mouth.
NO DEFENCE FOR MAN UTD TACTICS
In his Daily Telegraph column today, Harry Redknapp has suggested that Louis van Gaal cannot be blamed for the dire brand of football his Manchester United side have been serving up for this season.
“The simple truth is that Sir Alex Ferguson would not be walking away with the title with this squad,” Redknapp says.
“Perhaps the time has come for supporters and the media to realise they were spoilt with all those fantastic players from the past.
“Times have changed and United are being criticised for a new approach in which they have set themselves up as hard to beat.
“Maybe it is not the way United supporters are used to seeing their team play, but this team is being rebuilt add they will probably never see those times again.”
Redknapp certainly has a point that expectations of United must be set a lot lower than they were in the days of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez et al – but it would be a straw man argument to suggest that supporters expect the team to be ‘walking away’ with the title. They simply don’t.
What United fans are well within their rights to expect, however, after a spend of over £250million under Van Gaal, is a team with more than one attacking threat.
According to Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew, that is exactly what United have got, in the shape of 19-year-old Anthony Martial.
“We didn’t give Martial an inch. It was a big target for us to stop him, and we felt that if we could stop him, we could stop their creative angle,” Pardew said after Palace held United to their third successive goalless draw at the weekend.
“Wayne Rooney had a free-kick in the first half and that was about it,” Yohan Cabaye added of the visitors’ attacking threat at Selhurst Park. “Yes, they are a big club and yes, they can keep the ball – passes, passes, passes – but if you work hard against them and stay in a good shape they can’t do anything to pass through you or be adventurous.”
Regardless of what Redknapp says, there is no defence for this or any other Manchester United side to offer so little attacking threat. Van Gaal deserves every bit of criticism he’s getting.
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