We’ve been hit with a nasty strain of Flu here at Rant Towers this week but despite spluttering our way through last night’s superb 3-1 Champions League semi-final win at the Emirates, we’re definitely not feeling as sick as Darren Fletcher this morning. His red card means that he will miss the Rome final in three weeks time, which he may have started.
The sending off and subsequent ban is incredibly harsh on The Scottish Player given his performance on the night but the referee probably got it right. Fletcher can rightly point to the fact that in challenging Cesc Fabregas he got a touch on the ball as the Spaniard bore down on goal. But referees’ normal interpretation of the law these days is to look at a challenge in the round. The ball may be taken but if the follow-through takes the man (and Fletcher clearly did just that), then a foul will be given anyway. In this respect referee Roberto Rosetti made the correct decision by the letter of the law to award a penalty and send Fletcher off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
The aim of this modification in the rules was to outlaw dangerous tackles that can potentially injure players, even if the ball is taken. Indeed, United benefitted from this interpretation when awarded a penalty against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month – Heurelho Gomes got a touch on the ball but clattered Michael Carrick anyway and a penalty was awarded, to much dismay in the press.
The main problem is the lack of leeway in refereeing flexibility. The powers that be should give referee’s more room to interpret the law depending on the circumstances.
Clearly, Fletcher’s tackle was a brilliant piece of defensive work, not a potentially dangerous challenge. It also summed up why the Scot has become such a big game player for United in recent seasons. The midfielder could have let Fabregas take the goal without challenging – after all United were home and dry. But the Scot’s ultra professional performance in last night’s match – and over the season – meant that he was always going to put in a tackle. It is a credit to how much Fletcher’s game has developed over the past couple of years. He’ll always be a water-carrier, but is better at doing the dirty work than he used to be.
There is absolutely no chance that UEFA will overturn Rosetti’s decision – there isn’t even an appeals process except in cases of mistaken identity. And the irony is that Fletcher’s suspension may leave room in the team for Paul Scholes, who was famously banned from the 1999 Champions League final. Fittingly, it was The Ginger Prince who was first in the dressing room last night to console the Scot.