Referees are being swayed by “outside influences”, said manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Manchester United had a “100% nailed-on” penalty turned down during Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea.
A penalty appeal for handball against Callum Hudson-Odoi was turned down by referee Stuart Attwell, who upheld his decision after viewing it on the pitchside monitor.
“It was a penalty. I’m a bit concerned we don’t get those penalties after noises were made about us getting penalties,” said Solskjaer.
This was the only real incident of note in a largely dull game at Stamford Bridge.
Hudson-Odoi and United’s Mason Greenwood were contesting for the ball in the penalty area after Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy had punched out a shot.
The ball appeared to hit both players, Greenwood on the upper arm and Hudson-Odoi’s hand but Attwell did not give a penalty, allowing play to continue.
However, he was directed to look at the incident again by the video assistant referee (VAR) and after viewing a replay, with Hudson-Odoi watching just behind him, stuck with his decision, saying the Chelsea player did not move his hand towards the ball.
United have been awarded 22 penalties in the Premier League since the start of last season, four more than any other club, which had led Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard to question why their sides failed to get the same treatment from officials.
“There is a point of managers influencing the referees,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “I trust the referees not to be influenced by it. But I was very surprised by this decision.”
Solskjaer also appeared angered by a match preview on the Chelsea website which said Maguire’s “actions will also be under scrutiny again on Sunday after his penalty area tangle with Jamal Lascelles last weekend”.
It added: “In recent Chelsea meetings the Red Devils’ centre-back has survived VAR reviews of a potential penalty foul on Cesar Azpilicueta and violent challenge on Michy Batshuayi that may well have affected the outcome.”
“It’s all these outside influences,” said Solskjaer. “Even the VAR talk before the game on Harry. That’s cheeky when they put that on their website. That’s influencing the referees.”
Solskjaer said on first viewing it looked as if Greenwood handled it first, but changed his mind after viewing a replay.
When asked if he could understand why it wasn’t given, he said: “No. Not at all. Especially when they stop it and he walks across and can watch it.
“From here you can see it’s a handball but you think it’s our player who has done it. They’re shouting it’s handball for our player but when you watch it on the video, it’s taken two points away from us.”
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel saw it very differently.
“How can this be a VAR intervention? The player in red plays the ball with the hand and then we are checking for a penalty?” he said.
“I’ve seen it on the iPad, I don’t understand why the referee has to check it but I’m glad it was no penalty. That would make it even worse.”
‘An absolute mess’ – analysis
Former England striker Alan Shearer told BBC Match of the Day: “Under the current laws that is handball. The refs are so confused, they haven’t got a clue what is handball. That is not being critical of referees, but critical of the system and what they are being asked to do.”
Ex-Fulham and Tottenham midfielder Danny Murpy on Match of the Day: “Common sense has gone out of the window. I don’t want that to be given as handball but you can’t have the penalties that have been given in recent weeks and not give that. It is an absolute mess. Chaos.”