Monday night’s match between Manchester United and Wolves was not without its share of controversies. At the centre of it all was Manchester United’s Andre Onana, who was making his league debut.
Manchester United, under Erik ten Hag, managed to secure a 1-0 win against Wolves, thanks to a second-half goal from Raphael Varane. However, the Red Devils had their fair share of luck, especially against a Wolves side that was playing their first game under new head coach Gary O’Neil.
The focal point of post-match debates was Onana’s late penalty shout. During stoppage time, Onana seemed to have made a clumsy move, crashing into Wolves’ substitute Sasa Kalajdzic. The entire stadium, fans and pundits alike, were in shock when neither referee Simon Hooper nor VAR deemed it worthy of a penalty.
In his post-match interview, Onana admitted his responsibility for the contentious incident, “I made the decision and am responsible for everything; there was contact between two big guys.” His words subtly hint at his acknowledgement of the foul.
Gary O’Neil, who received a booking from Hooper for protesting, expressed his displeasure over the decision. “If you go for the ball and clatter into the attacking player, it has to be a foul. I am not overly surprised that we didn’t get it. When he came towards us, I thought he might be going over to the screen but he was booking me and not Onana for smashing our player.”
The Wolves head coach was even more miffed after revealing that Jon Moss, the PGMOL referees’ officer, had apologised for the oversight. He commented, “It looked like the keeper nearly took our forward’s head off. But fair play to Jon Moss afterwards for coming out and apologising.”
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, known for his unfiltered opinion, didn’t hold back either. He said, “I think it is a penalty because Onana was nowhere near the ball. I always said if my keeper was coming out, to take the lot. He has done that but he is nowhere near the ball. I think in an un-calculated fashion, he has decided he is going to disturb the attacking player as much as he can. I think he knew what he was doing.“
For O’Neil, the incident overshadowed what was otherwise a commendable display from his team, especially given the short amount of time they had worked under him. He further expressed his discontent by stating, “I thought live it was a penalty. If you go for the ball and clatter into the attacking player, it has to be a foul.” He continued, stressing that even if the on-field referee missed it, the decision shouldn’t be left unchallenged, especially when a majority believe it was a clear penalty.
The incident is a vivid example of the many grey areas and controversies surrounding VAR and decision-making in football. One can only hope for clearer guidelines and better execution in the future to avoid such contentious incidents.