EPL 2016/17: Mike Dean and officials criticised by Gary Neville after Manchester United beat West Ham
What’s the story?
Manchester United beat 10-man West Ham 2-0 on Monday night and Premier League pundit Gary Neville tore into referee Mike Dean for the way the game panned out. Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic had scored in the second half but not before the Hammers were down to 10 men following a controversial straight red card to Sofiane Feghouli for a challenge on United defender Phil Jones.
“I think it's maybe the reaction of the Manchester United players, the reaction of Phil Jones maybe, obviously who no doubt would have taken a kick and would have been hurt by it,” Neville said. “It's a poor decision.”
“His head was a mess after that Mike Dean, he's had a really poor day,” Neville continued. “And to compound that the linesman has too, with Ibrahimovic offside for the second goal. It's not been a good day for the officials, Manchester United have benefited from that today.
In case you didn’t know...
Dean has been a referee in the Premier League for 17 seasons now. Having started his career as an assistant referee in 1995, he made his way up to the Select Group of Premier League referees in 2001.
The 48-year-old was also a FIFA referee until 2013. However, FIFA referees must step down when they reach the age of 45 – the mandatory age for retirement from international football – a rule that has not been enforced in the Premier League.
In the 2016/17 season alone, Dean has awarded 10 penalties while also pulling out his red card five times. While each case may have its merits, no other referee has awarded so many penalties or sent so many players off
The heart of the matter
The tackle itself was more of a coming together of two players. Feghouli’s touch on the ball was a bit heavy and as he tried to recover it with one leg extended, Jones had come flying in to clear the ball. The two made contact quite unlike a two-footed challenge on a player that deserves a booking.
Jones may have made contact with the ball first before the collision but, as Neville said, it was the defender’s reaction and the players’ protests that made up Dean’s mind to send the Algerian midfielder down the tunnel of the Olympic Stadium.
It was a decision that “killed West Ham” according to manager Slaven Bilic. The Croatian manager sympathised with Feghouli and confirmed that the Hammers would appeal, claiming that it was Jones who deserved a red card.
“It was Jones who made a more dangerous tackle than Feghouli,” Bilic said. “Jones makes a scissor, he got the ball but it was dangerous. It's definitely not a red card. I wouldn't even be happy with a yellow.”
This decision only strengthens the argument for video replays to be used in making the correct decision. The technology was on trial at the Club World Cup last month and was used on more than one occasion to adjudge a penalty and offside respectively.
A number of managers feel Premier League referees are a protected bunch and they are absolutely right. The FA look to punish anyone who criticises a referee’s decisions and something needs to change on that front.
Dean is one of those referees whose arrogance precedes him and tries to take the focus away from the action on the pitch. While the 22 players are supposed to be the main attraction on the field, Dean tends to steal the show and he loves the attention he gets – evident from the flair with which he sends a player off.
It was obvious that Dean’s head was simply not in the game following the decision and the fact that Ibrahimovic was offside when he scored the second United goal only puts all officials under the scanner. But will any action be taken? The FA tends to drag their feet on such issues and there doesn’t seem to be a clear resolution in sight.
Video replays must be used and football is one of the most popular sports that refuses to make such drastic changes in the name of ruining the flow of the game. But it is a small sacrifice to make lest the game descends into a farce when such decisions are made.