Surely refs and VAR officials have punished Manchester United enough now?

Editor F365
Casemiro is consoled after receiving a red card in the draw between Man Utd and Southampton.

Manchester United fans in the Mailbox bemoan another unjust ban for Casemiro and plead for mercy from refs. Also: another stumbling low-block for Liverpool; and Arsenal deserve more credit.

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Still waiting on karmic balance
I know being a ref is hard. I know that’s why VAR was brought in. But it’s idiocy to use VAR to re-referee in slow motion. Everything look terrible in slow motion. Every connection looks dangerous in a freeze frame. It’s a contact sport.

So twice this season, VAR has decided, in its infinite wisdom, to re-referee Casemiro actions. I’m not sure why it’s always him – I assume because he’s really famous, but fine. Both times a red could absolutely be justified by the letter of the law. Especially when things are slowed down to a single frame. BUT, both times I’ve seen many, many other instances of the same actions happening this season in matches and nothing done. Watched Eriksen miss half a season for a far worse challenge that wasn’t even reviewed.

If you include the halves Casemiro will miss, he will be out for almost a quarter of the season for those two VAR decisions. Was anyone hurt? Nope. Did the ref on the field feel the need to issue red cards in real-time? Nope.

As a United fan again, let me apologise for the train-wreck that was the Rashford decision in the Derby. It was wrong. But please, can whoever is in charge of VAR stop ‘balancing the scales’ now? It’s ridiculous. A quarter of a season out because of those two ‘actions’ is just a mockery of the sport.
Ryan, Bermuda


…Depending on one’s own particular brand of bias, you’ll see Casemiro’s 2 red card offences one way or the other.

However, can anyone that doesn’t despise everything Manchester United honestly say that those 2 incidents merit 7 games worth of suspension? Nearly a fifth of the league season for those two?

If the ref or VAR want to send him off on the day, fine. They’re subjective calls, but surely a 1 or 2 game at most is all that’s required for either?

This doesn’t just punish United either. That’s us playing against teams pushing for Europe or fighting for survival without one of the best players in the division.

If we can have VAR and semi-automated offsides, surely we can have a more subjective approach to bans rather than this one size fits all method?
Lewis, Busby Way

Read more: Could Casemiro *actually* end up costing Man Utd Champions League football?


Saints and sinners
Wouldn’t be very happy with referees if I was a fan of any team fighting Southampton for survival. Sekou Mara bicycle-kicked Cesar Azpilicueta into hospital in their win over Chelsea and stayed on the pitch yet today Casemiro’s foot bounces off the top of the ball and into Alcaraz’s shin and he sees red. If intent isn’t important then both are red cards, if it is then neither are.
ThaiWolf, HK


Pope’s escape
I thought Dave Tickner’s piece on the NUFC-Wolves match almost entirely spot-on. As far as Nick Pope’s big scare goes, I’ll admit that from the initial wide angle, it brought my hands to my head. I thought it was a penalty, too, and couldn’t believe our luck when VAR didn’t give it. When I saw a reverse angle post-match, though, I wasn’t sure significant contact had even taken place. Surely, Pope initiated no more meaningful contact without getting the ball than Raul Jimenez did in bringing down Fabien Schär in the 73rd minute. Too, when Traore brought down Jacob Murphy from behind in the 58th, it might have drawn a red card. Murphy was certainly in a position to shoot one-on-one against Sa, which is my definition of a goalscoring opportunity.

I might sound like a supporter feeling defensive about an undeserved win, but I hope that’s not the case. We could easily have lost that match without being too badly aggrieved. It was just one of those matches with a lot of “that’s football” moments, not least of which was Trippier’s absurd slip leading to Wolves’ equalizer.

Still, it would have been kind of spooky for Pope to mirror Casemiro’s rapid-fire red cards like that.
Chris C, Toon Army DC


Ruined by the ref
he first half was relatively even for both sides. United were in control more but Southampton are a solid young team who kept up with United for the half. Sadly the half was ruined by terrible referring. It should never be a red card for Casemiro. He gets the ball which should be where it stops. There’s nothing he can do to stop his foot after he gets the ball. Of course, I can understand this sounds biased from me as a United fan but this happens in every other football match yet it’s never a red unless it’s against United. We could have also got a penalty but I guess it was not as obvious as it needed to be. I feel bad for Casemiro as he’s had two red cards that should not have been given and he’s got to miss games now because he got the ball but he clips a Southampton player purely because of physics and momentum. Other than that, I liked Sancho in the first half he seemed to be up for the game and was getting involved from the middle as well as moving wide which is good to see from him.

The second half was very similar to the first half. Southampton were very lively and made sure United stayed focused for the whole half or risk conceding. United did as well as we could considering being a player down and especially a player like Casemiro. It was positive to see the team pull together and make sure their heads don’t drop and continue going till the last whistle especially considering last week’s result.

Overall, It’s disappointing to draw at home but considering we got a red in the first half and some dodgy referring we still played well and stayed connected until the final whistle even a player down. A positive that I saw in the game was that Wan-Bissaka looks so much more comfortable with the ball at his feet and going forward. Of course, he still has some suspect moments but for the most part, his game has really improved over the last few months and it’s good to see. I also felt Sancho looked good in the 10 as he was getting on the ball and making good moves but still there is room for him to grow. All we can do now is train and get ready for the second leg against Betis on Thursday.
Max of Whitegate


…Just a quick one on yesterday’s game: seriously, f*ck these refs.

Does any one of them have a clue how to referee consistently within even the context of one game? I don’t think the Casemiro one was a red card (he got the ball before the man and his studs only went up because the ball pushed them up), but the referee disagreed; if that’s the line in the sand being drawn then fine – it’s a subjective call, but how then how does Walker-Peters get away with a very similar challenge in plain terms, if not stylistically (he also got the ball first but not without being able to avoid scissoring Garnacho’s standing leg), without even giving away a foul, never mind having a yellow upgraded to a red? And for the referee to not even go over to the monitor? I just can’t make it make sense. If one gets a pitch side review then the other must as well – at the very least to avoid questions of bias, by refereeing both teams to the same standard.

I don’t even have an issue with the draw, we didn’t do enough to win and neither did Southampton, but I take huge umbrage with the fact that they had a different referee than we did. If the people operating the technology can’t get it right then get rid of it.
Ted, Manchester


Stumbling low block for Liverpool
Another get-out-of-jail-free card, another failure to grab it for Liverpool.

Ironically we have more chance of picking up points in our next 3 games against our big rivals, than against the rest of the low block, bus parking counter-attacking “lesser” teams, as we’ve annoyingly demonstrated thus far this season!

It’s annoying how they all use the same counter-strategy to score against us and Klopp hasn’t got a solution yet.

This season we’ve lost to 18-19-20th place sides in the league.
On a team comparison basis our players are better but it comes down to the fragile mindsets of the players especially when we go down. It seems to knock us off and we have no confidence. No balls at all!

Mathematically we are still in the race for the top 4 but this defeat makes it a hella difficult to get in. Klopp needs to analyze why we come up short against the bus parking teams like palace and Bournemouth.
Tejas (Enjoy the Bernabeu game, it could be our last UCL game for a while)


Freaking funny
I see there were a lot of gums flapping about how the loss to Bournemouth made the United game even more of a “freak result”. So? Makes it funnier. The history books won’t show an asterisk next to it in the same way United’s victory over Arsenal or Villa’s win over Liverpool are not remembered as freak results.

But whilst 7 without reply may have been a bit over the top, the history books show that United can’t cope with Anfield anymore. They’re shook before they take to the pitch. 1 goal in however many games against us. No win in a decade? (I’m too hungover to check the exact time you last won at Anfield) We’ve put 3, 4 & 5 past you in recent memory. If anything, the freak result was you beating us at Old Trafford.

Our worst season in years and United are 7 points (at the time of writing) ahead of us? I’ll take that.

No matter how many more games we lose, the 7-0 win will never stop being funny.


…Obviously there was a lot of joy from rival fans at watching us revert to type against Bournemouth. Not a single Liverpool fan I knew, myself included, thought we’d win the game though – so it doesn’t sting quite as much as it might have at the beginning of the season. More of a resigned shrug and a ‘ well, that’s typical ‘ grumble.

Anyway there were a lot of references to whichever Liverpool fans thought beating Man U 7-0 was better than a cup win. When I first saw these, obviously my thoughts were that I’d always prefer a cup win. No trophies in the cabinet to display for inflicting a pasting on your arch-rivals. It all seemed a bit silly to be honest.

Then I thought some more and shifted quite a bit from my initial position. When in the future am I excitedly going to look back on our Carabao and FA Cup was in the future? Great to win at the time of course and it felt like a genuinely realistic part of the mythical Quadruple. Which remained mythical alas. But the actual games were shite, as were our performances. No one will search on YouTube to watch our successful penalties.

But we’ll remember that 7-0, without exaggeration, for *decades*. Christ knows how many times I’ve watched the highlights already. As well as the Man U fans falling further to bits, goal by happy goal. 4-0, 5-0 – yeah that’s great and we enjoyed them a whole bunch last season. Particularly the one at Old Trafford, where we were fair better than last weekend. But they weren’t historical and the 7-0 really was.

For certain, it really is all we’ll actually celebrate this season. We really aren’t going to turn Madrid over to that extent and if we get in the Champions League places, it will be because other teams bottled it, rather than because of any excellence on our part.

Of course I wouldn’t have taken the 7-0 at the beginning of the season, if it meant deteriorating to the extent we have. However the season is what it is, it’s eminently forgettable and we’ll get over it and go again. But whatever else has happened, I’ll enjoy that game for a long, long time to come.
James, Liverpool


…We made United look like Bournemouth and Bournemouth look like United.
Scott, Toronto

Gabriel Martinelli of Arsenal celebrates after scoringduring the Premier League match between Fulham and Arsenal at Craven Cottage, London on Sunday 12th March 2023
Arsenal deserve more credit
Haven’t mailed for a while. However, I’d just like to point everyone in the direction of Arsenals second goal yesterday. Low key one of the best goals you will ever see. 24 passes, all 11 players touched the ball as part of the move, and an outrageous bit of control from Trossard.

It does feel like this Arsenal team is not getting the credit it deserves currently, and this goal in particular yesterday seems to have been massively overlooked. Go check it out.

Happy Monday.


Palace and Lineker palaver
Not much to say about Crystal Palace that hasn’t already been said, is there? On 5 January I wrote to F365 suggesting that they were sleepwalking towards relegation and that part of the problem was Patrick Vieira and his coaches either not recognising there were problems or not knowing how to fix them. Fast forward two months and not only are Palace still waiting for their first win in 2023, they’ve become the first team in Premier League history to fail to have a shot on target in three consecutive games.

*In the bigger picture, a 0-1 defeat to Manchester City is not the worst result ever, given the disparity between the two sides in almost every metric (wealth, trophies, calibre of players, seasons in the third tier since 1978) favours the Citizens, and previous results mean Pep Guardiola treats games against Palace with greater urgency than most other midtable sides. This second point is possibly why the club’s official account felt the need to tweet the single word “scenes” when their ludicrously expensive striker scores a penalty having been largely ineffective from open play.

Keeping Erling Haaland that quiet for that long is an achievement, but failing to capitalise on the let-offs is incredibly disappointing. The Eagles were so disjointed, and the fact the same ineffective players are able to start game after game makes you worried that there’s a real reason those on the bench aren’t getting opportunities. In some cases, it appears to be double standards; players who don’t produce anything in a 20 minute substitute appearance are being judged more harshly than someone producing nothing in the previous 70. That’s the substitute’s lot, but it doesn’t seem particularly fair, and it doesn’t seem especially motivational.

*Palace face Brighton & Hove and then the Arsenal in their next two games. Expectations of points are very low, but fans will demand a superior performance against Albion. It’s not that people are close to demanding the manager is sacked, but a win would go a hell of a long way towards getting everyone back on his side.

*I’m not saying we can’t trust politicians, but I’m not convinced they actually watched Match of the Day on Saturday night, or in fact, have ever watched it. That said, some tweets from the Brexit-loving leavophiles declaring it the best ever edition needed to be read really closely before you spotted the giveaway that they aren’t in the habit of watching it regularly: “I even had time to make last orders at the pub” was my favourite, somehow written by a pound shop politician and not a pound shop version of Chat GPT asked to say something like a normal football supporter (an innocent football supporter).

While lots of people don’t have time for the punditry, it serves a purpose beyond the actual dissection of how a goal was scored or whether a manager will be disappointed with the referee. It’s a representation on screen of football’s ability to generate conversations; the ability to bring people together, or into contact with each other, is the real strength of football over any other sport and almost every other cultural endeavour. No wonder those grifters see something that unifying as a threat to their divide and rule politics.

*The cruellest irony for Gary Lineker is that while it was a political tweet that got him suspended, the decision seemed more based on logic from football social media. The euphemism being used is “impartiality”, and as we all know, there are a lot of people who cannot compute anyone disagreeing with them for legitimate reasons, only because they are biased against them. The same logic doesn’t apply to people who breach impartiality guidelines far more flagrantly, but do so to support the government.

The saddest part is it would actually have better suited the free speech advocates if he hadn’t been punished. That way, they could have had licence to say whatever they wanted and use “but you don’t mind Gary Lineker giving his opinions” as a defence, admittedly one primarily of false equivalency. Instead, because discrediting Lineker at every opportunity is more important to them than maintaining a consistent moral position, they will inevitably end up with less of the freedom to express themselves than they had previously. Idiots.

*Appropriately enough for those hailing Saturday’s MOTD as the greatest ever edition, it was the perfect metaphor for Brexit. It’s far smaller in quantity and far lower in quality than previously available, with things that were already available portrayed as improvements or new additions, all championed as actually much better now by people who aren’t really affected by the changes in any meaningful way.
Ed Quoththeraven


First you write an utterly nonsense article trying the usual, selling Harry Kane to Man United, where he’s got no more chance of winning a major trophy than he has staying at Tottenham.

Then you write a piece about how Casemiro’s red card today might cost United top four, but claim the “gap to Liverpool in fifth is healthy” and whatnot without mentioning that if Spurs beat Southampton next weekend they jump above United into 3rd (yeah, I’m aware United have games in hand, but points on the board are better….).

Shame on you. I thought you were better than the brigade of anti-Tottenham media outlets but evidently not.
Scott – COYS


BBC drama from afar
As a Canadian (currently in Honduras) watching the Lineker vs BBC (or maybe better said everyone vs BBC) drama unfold, I’m massively entertained. I can’t pretend to understand the minutiae of the culture of football and the BBC’s legacy in the UK but I think I can come close.

In Canada we have the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) a public radio/TV broadcaster that’s federal Crown owned and funded by the government (so we taxpayers pay for it). It aired the country’s biggest ice hockey program: Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday from 1952 until 2014 when custodianship of the brand was sold to Sportsnet.

One of the icons of Hockey Night in Canada was coach-turned-pundit Don Cherry. A man with vast experience, entertaining rants, and an even vaster wardrobe of obnoxious suits. You watched HNIC as much to see your team play as to see what Don was going to wear during Coach’s Corner. As he got older his rants sometimes made a bit less sense and his co-pundit’s job was bordering on prioritizing keeping Cherry on track. In 2019 the notoriously pro-armed forces Don Cherry launched into a rant about “you people” who come to Canada, enjoy “our” country but don’t buy poppies in November and support the troops. The rant was a bit more in depth than that and it was at best ignorant, and at most xenophobic. The least problematic thing about it was that there was absolutely no evidence to support the idea that imigrants come to Canada and don’t support veterans. I’ve seen plenty wear poppies and plenty not. The choice to wear one or not is personal and certainly doesn’t belong on a sports program. Btw, yes, Don was fired. Yes we miss him a bit, but we’re better off. Generations come and go.

The main difference between Don and Gary was the former was singling out a group without evidence to back up claims, live on air, and the later was criticizing policy, on his non-network-associated social media. I don’t care if Gary is right or wrong, the BBC has seemed to have overplayed their hand and shown themselves to be hypocritical with how they handle their employee’s political views. I’m glad to see his coworkers backing him up to put the Beeb in a corner. When Don ranted about immigrants, none of his came to his defence, and that right there is a real indication of who’s in the right and the wrong.

I don’t know if this will get published or if anyone will find this story of Britain’s ex-colonial cousin’s similar situation entertaining. But this surely won’t be the last time something like this happens. And regardless anyone’s political views I think the thing most of us want to see is consistency. If the BBC can’t provide that, then maybe it’s time to take a look at the CBC playbook and sell Match of the Day to a network that is sports-focused. Sometimes some things are better off out of the hands of public corporations.
Jamin, (hey I didn’t talk about United once!) Canadian in Honduras


This may not be the “right” view on the subject, but can I just say, I preferred the new format of MoTD. Like the good old days when you could turn off commentary and just watch the football without some halfwit telling you their interpretation of what happened.

I don’t really care whether x pundit thinks it shouldn’t have been given, Pope definitely should have conceded that penalty and bollocks was it a red card for Casemiro (foot made full contact with the ball and only rode up when it was deflected up after).


Official bias
My question is quite straightforward. When referees and linesman are interviewed for their jobs are they asked to name which team they support? If so are they then excluded from officiating any of their teams matches?

Just asking.
Ian (Chelsea fan with no particular axe to grind)