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. Agent: Rafa Bentiez “would be truly happy” to manage Real Madrid

    May 22, 2015, 12:02 AM EDT

    Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli Rafael Benitez, SSC Napoli

    Firing one of the world’s elite managers, so you can hire a good-but-not-great replacement? Not smart, Real Madrid, not smart at all.

  2. Scholes: If De Gea leaves, Manchester United should sign Petr Cech

    May 21, 2015, 10:57 PM EDT

    Petr Cech, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    According to Scholes, the solution to Man United’s goalkeeping problem is a no-brainer.

  3. Emmanuel Adebayor given compassionate leave after revealing suicidal thoughts

    May 21, 2015, 9:47 PM EDT

    Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC Emmanuel Adebayor, Tottenham Hotspur FC

    Well done to Tottenham Hotspur for showing the necessary compassion and taking care of one of their own.

  4. US Open Cup draw: Sounders-Timbers, NYCFC-NY Cosmos highlight possible 4th-round clashes

    May 21, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT

    US Open Cup trophy Getty Images

    The draw for the 4th round of the 2015 US Open Cup tossed up a couple of absolute doozies on Thursday night.

  5. Hodgson: England very happy to take Jack Grealish from Ireland, if he so chooses

    May 21, 2015, 7:23 PM EDT

    Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC Jack Grealish, Aston Villa FC

    Jack Grealish has a big decision to make in the not-so-distant future, and it’s going to affect the course of the rest of his career.

  6. War of words: Henry, Giroud trading jabs over Thierry’s “dull” punditry comments

    May 21, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT

    Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC Olivier Giroud, Arsenal FC

    Thierry Henry is riding Olivier Giroud very hard these days, claiming Arsenal will never win a PL title with him leading the line.

  7. Poland federation president calls for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    May 21, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    ZbigniewBoniek Getty Images

    Qatar isn’t the only World Cup host to make others upset.

  8. Trio of corporate sponsors denounce FIFA for migrant worker conditions in Qatar

    May 21, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    FIFA World Cup trophy Getty Images

    Sponsors hold the one true key to change in Qatar, and strong words are a start.

  9. Final day looming in Spain, France to decide Champions League places

    May 21, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    Gignac Getty Images

    Many European leagues have spots in the big dance still up for grabs.

  10. Young Liverpool pair signs new contract extensions

    May 21, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    Ibe Getty Images

    Jordon Ibe and Jon Flanagan both will stick around Anfield for a while longer.

  11. Hours after Van Praag drops out of FIFA presidential race, Figo does the same

    May 21, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT

    LuisFigo Getty Images

    Only one candidate remains to battle Sepp Blatter, and it doesn’t look good.

  12. One candidate drops out as Blatter’s re-election looks more and more certain

    May 21, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - MAY 20: FIFA President Sepp Blatter delivers a speech during an opening ceremony of a football stadium in Dura el Qar village, West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 20, 2015. (Photo by Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The man who’s been investigated by the FBI and green lit loads of allegedly corrupt ideas will continue to rule your favorite sport.

  13. Xavi’s tearful goodbye: Legend confirms move to Al Saad, ending Barca run at 17 years

    May 21, 2015, 10:41 AM EDT

    150521-xavi-ARTICLE Getty Images

    The announcement is the final touch of a poorly-kept secret, and comes with the Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League on the horizon.

  14. Vancouver joins Montreal in Canadian final; CONCACAF Champions League berth decided in August

    May 21, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Benoit Cheyrou AP

    The Impact will be looking for their third-straight Canadian Championship, having defeated TFC and Vancouver in recent campaigns.

  15. Agent: Sterling wouldn’t sign new Liverpool deal, even for $1.4 million a week

    May 21, 2015, 9:03 AM EDT

    (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT)  of Liverpool during the Liverpool Player of the Year Awards on May 19, 2015 in Liverpool, England. Getty Images

    Ward said every club in the Premier League would bid for Sterling (who has already reportedly turned down an offer worth $235,000 a week).

  16. Leicester, QPR, Burnley players earn England call-ups for June matches

    May 21, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Austin Getty Images

    Phil Jones and Chris Smalling make it a trio of Manchester United players on the roster, while Arsenal paces all Premier League squads with four call-ups.

  17. US Open Cup second round wrap: Several USL sides clipped by “minnows”

    May 21, 2015, 7:46 AM EDT

    http://www.rhinossoccer.com/ http://www.rhinossoccer.com/

    There’s a guarantee that a fourth-tier side or lower will see the fourth round, thanks to a pair of surprise wins.

  18. Mats Hummels rejects Manchester United move, will stay at Dortmund

    May 20, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-WOLFSBURG-DORTMUND FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-WOLFSBURG-DORTMUND

    Borussia Dortmund’s sporting director has said the prized defender will stay in Germany next season.

  19. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 4-2 New England Revolution

    May 20, 2015, 10:01 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Houston Dynamo Getty Images

    A brace from Krisztian Nemeth led Sporting KC to an impressive win over a Revolution side that will leave Kansas City disappointed.

  20. Newcastle fans staging sit-in protest at St. James’ Park following final match of season

    May 20, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT

    Leicester City v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    With the Magpies in danger of relegation, supporters want owner Mike Ashley to sell the club.

Featured video

Championship Sunday: 10 games, 10 channels