Skip to content

The big red for Nani and the Red Devils? It was the wrong refereeing choice

Mar 5, 2013, 6:25 PM EDT

FBL-EUR-C1-MAN UTD-REAL MADRID

We will be fussing and fighting about the monumental decision from Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir for a while … so why wait?

Richard Farley already told you his opinion in an earlier ProSoccerTalk post. His verdict: correct choice.

My verdict: Not so much.

The decision that so roiled Sir Alex Ferguson and thousands around fabled Old Trafford, the highly controversial red card to Manchester United’s Nani for connecting chest-high with Real Madrid’s unlucky Alvaro Arbeloa, was far from the most egregious refereeing mistake I’ve ever seen. But it was wrong.

To be sure, going down 10 men is not the only reason Manchester United’s Champions League run is over. Robin van Persie needed to be better around goal. Wayne Rooney, too, on one point-blank volley.

Manchester United sat back too deep in defense after the red. (I mean, Ferguson’s men were still at home.) Plus, Jose Mourinho made the right sub, while Luka Modric and Diego Lopez were difference makers. So credit to Real Madrid.

That said … it was still the wrong refereeing choice.

I’m never one to say the rules should be adjusted for bigger matches. Rules are rules, so the old saw about how a referee “cannot decide a big match” is poppycock in my book.

But …

Big matches do deserve extra caution in rendering such a weighty choice. And they do probably deserve a little more benefit of the doubt.

It’s worth going to the nearside referee’s assistant: “What did you see?”

It’s worth going to the fourth official: “What did you see?”

We didn’t see Cakir doing this, but we don’t know if this critical back-and-forth was being conducted through the headsets. It may have been. Either way, all three should be in 100 percent agreement that this thing amounts to the reddest of reds. And I just do not see how that could be.

Nani’s eyes were on the ball. This was incident of “head hunting.”

Yes it was dangerous, reckless and potentially injurious. It was a poor choice on Nani’s part to fly in so high, so forcefully with a Real Madrid man potentially nearby.

But I don’t see how anyone can make a compelling case that Nani absolutely knew there was a Real man nearby. In this case, being careless, even dangerously so, doesn’t rise to felony level. It’s a bad misdemeanor.

This was no “Nigel de Jong;” that notorious stunt in a huge World Cup 2010 moment was a full-on, from the front, intentional Dutch shoe aimed center mass, horribly dangerous, right in the chest. That’s a red card – only it wasn’t during South African final because too much benefit of the doubt was provided.

This time, not enough was.

Nani deserved a yellow.

Latest Posts
  1. Pro-Palestinian protestors attack Israeli players on pitch in Austria

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT

    photoshot photoshot

    The growing mess in Israel carried over onto the soccer fields of Austria, where Maccabi Haifa played a preseason friendly against Lille.

  2. “Embarrassed” in LA, thrilled in Manchester: Reactions to 7-0 beatdown

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

    Jaime Penedo, Wayne Rooney AP

    Almost 90,000 fans in Los Angeles watched Manchester United put an old-fashioned punking on their hosts. And then both sides reacted.

  3. Better Deal: Sigurdsson and cash or Vorm and Davies?

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Everton - Premier League Getty Images

    Surely one of these clubs enjoyed the sweeter side of this deal and here we set out to see who it was.

  4. James Milner denies contract offer from City but will stay and fight for his place

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Despite starting only 12 Premier League matches last year, James Milner has decided to remain at Manchester City and fight for his place.

  5. Watch Live: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes (Lineups and Discuss)

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Mike Magee

    Catch the San Jose Earthquakes and Chicago Fire live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra tonight at 10:30pm ET.

  6. Liverpool 0-1 AS Roma: Marco Borriello winner gives Italians victory at Fenway

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:43 PM EDT

    Philippe Coutinho AP

    In a relaxed match featuring over forty players, the difference came in the 89th minute as Marco Borriello knocked home a corner.

  7. Croatian club call Manchester City’s racism claim ‘baseless’

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Manchester City v SL Benfica UEFA Youth League Quarter Final Getty Images

    Rijeka have come forward to say they “clearly and unequivocally reject” City’s allegation of racism.

  8. Houston Dynamo land USMNT legend DaMarcus Beasley

    Jul 23, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT

    DaMarcus Beasley AP

    Beasley signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Dynamo and becomes the club’s third Designated Player.

  9. Watch Live: Liverpool vs. AS Roma (Lineups and Discuss)

    Jul 23, 2014, 6:48 PM EDT

    Steven Gerrard believes Liverpool will prove themselves champions come next season. Getty Images

    Catch Liverpool and AS Roma live on NBCSN and online via Live Extra tonight at 7:00pm ET.

  10. USMNT prospect Gedion Zelalem on Arsenal’s roster for Red Bulls match

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:49 PM EDT

    Gideon Zelalem

    Jurgen Klinsmann has long coveted Zelalem and the 17-year old looks to be next in line to don the Stars & Stripes.

  11. Stripping Russia of World Cup 2018? Germany makes the argument

    Jul 23, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    germany celebrate AP

    According to Fuchs, Germany and France would be happy to take over if needed.

  12. Tottenham and Swansea City swap Sigurdsson for Vorm and Davies

    Jul 23, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT

    Gylfi-Sigurdsson-Tottenham-vs-Watford_2811248

    Sigurdsson, who scored seven goals during a loan spell with Swansea in 2011/12, returns at the Liberty after two seasons at Spurs.

  13. Diego Costa urged to “not change” his game, but can he deliver for Chelsea?

    Jul 23, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    Spain Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    Can the Spanish international be a success at Chelsea? You bet.

  14. New York City FC to announce “major signing” on Thursday… Frank Lampard?

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:16 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-BENFICA-CHELSEA Getty Images

    Will Lampard be suiting up at Yankee Stadium for NYC FC next season? We find out Thursday…

  15. Teams relocated outside of eastern Ukraine ahead of new season

    Jul 23, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT

    waxtap AP

    The show will go on, but not in eastern Ukraine as fighting between pro-Russian rebels and the military continues.

  16. World Cup winner Joachim Low will stay on as Germany’s manager

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    Coach Joachim Low of Germany sings the National Anthem of Germany before their friendly soccer match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam Reuters

    German boss reveals he will stay on as manager until at least 2016. Can you smell a dynasty?

  17. Barcelona sign French defender Jeremy Mathieu for $27 million

    Jul 23, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Everton's Robles and Valencia's Mathieu fight for the ball during a cornerkick at their Guinness International Champions Cup soccer match in Miami Gardens

    Substance over style: Barca sign towering defender from La Liga rivals Valencia.