England striker Marcus Rashford stood accused of conning referee Neil Swarbrick into a penalty decision as Manchester United’s top-four hopes fell foul of another home draw against Swansea.
Rashford earned his side a spot-kick just before half-time at Old Trafford, which Wayne Rooney duly converted, but replays showed the teenager’s tumble had already begun before he brushed the arm of goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
The away end harangued Rashford in the second half, social media condemned him just as quickly and Swans boss Paul Clement, whose side claimed a 1-1 draw thanks to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s brilliant free-kick, left no doubt as to his opinion.
”Replays show the player deceived the referee – there is no other way to look at it,” he said.
”You could say he has dangled a leg to get the contact, but he is (going) down before that, before there is any kind of contact.
”Lukasz (Fabianski) was furious. He said he went down to get his hands on the ball but he could see he couldn’t get to it and came away from the challenge, but their player went down before the contact.”
Clement also queried Swarbrick’s thought process.
“There was the time between the contact – or non-contact – and the decision being made, a brief pause which normally would say there’s doubt,” he said.
”The referee said to me after the game he was sure what he had seen and was just confirming with the assistant. I don’t know why he even asked him, because he is almost as far away as I was.”
Jose Mourinho had little to say on the incident and like his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger, who is infamous for missing controversial moments, he claimed he hadn’t seen it: “I don’t have a view because I didn’t watch and I have Marcus’ opinion. He said that the goalkeeper touched him.”
The Portuguese was keener to focus on increasingly familiar problems of fitness, frailty and fixture lists.
Although they now boast a 25-match unbeaten Premier League run, a new club record, United have also racked up 14 draws this term and 10 in front of their own fans.
Mourinho saw Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly join a crowded injury list and, while keen to stress the physical demands of a season totalling 57 matches and counting, his sympathy was limited.
“I think Shaw has to be a big injury,” was his frosty response on the left-back’s early exit.
“When you leave the pitch after 10 minutes I am expecting a very important injury.”
He continued: “I cannot isolate our performance from the context. The context is nine matches in April, 810 mins of football, high levels of fatigue, big match after big match after big match.
“We lose two points but I am very happy with the players, I am very happy with them. The boys gave everything they can.”