Mike Dean: Man of the Match?

Rooney cheated, but Mike Dean is equally guilty.

Rooney cheated, but Mike Dean is equally guilty.

I spent much of my Saturday here in NZ trying to toss up whether or not I’d be getting up at 4am on Sunday morning to watch the match between Man United and Arsenal. Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t resist watching such a mouth watering tie, especially as I felt – as I hinted in my Predictions – that Arsenal would outplay United in a cracking match. And they did.

That United came away with the points then, is a bit surprising. I was very impressed with Arsenal, they played good football (though the pressure of the occasion affected both sides at times) and played with great attacking intent. United were disappointing, and looked aimless going forward. There’s one reason and one reason only that in this match, the better side didn’t win, and that reason is called Mike Dean.

As a complete neutral watching this game – I wouldn’t have minded particularly who won, so long as come May one of them finishes higher than Liverpool – I was astounded at just how biased Mike Dean was towards Manchester United. Of course, we all know that at Old Trafford, United enjoy the favour of all the Premier League referees, but throughout the game Dean gave everything he could to United.

Naturally the big talking point will be the penalty that was awarded to United, and frankly you know, and I know, and all the Man Utd fans know, it was never a penalty in a million years. Rooney raced to get a touch to the ball and in his haste he smashed it off the pitch – it didn’t even bounce inside the touchline – and then crumbled to the ground, eventually clinching some contact with the unfortunate Almunia.

It was never a penalty because there was no active contact from Almunia but even more so because Rooney could never have retrieved the ball and so even if there had been contact, there was no denial of a goals coring opportunity, or indeed any opportunity. No, Rooney is as guilty of deceiving the referee in order to gain a penalty as Eduardo was against Celtic in midweek.

The difference is that Arsenal would have beaten Celtic anyway. They were busy outplaying them when Eduardo took his tumble, whereas Man Utd looked completely toothless up until the point when Rooney spied an opportunity to cheat his way into another Premier League goal. Arsenal fans still can’t complain – given Eduardo’s precedent setting crime – but I hope Rooney will suffer a fate similar to Eduardo’s.

Eduardo’s dive took place in the Champions League and so UEFA, the governing body of the competition, have taken the unusual step of charging Eduardo and banning him. Initially I thought this was ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I hate diving with a passion and encourage the game’s ruling bodies to do anything they can to stamp it out, but I agreed with Wenger when he declared it a witch-hunt driven by the Scottish media.

That’s exactly what it was, and still is. However, if it sets a precedent and UEFA continue to ban players who dive to win free-kicks and penalties in their competitions, then I applaud them. It is, as far as I can see, one of the best ways that we could enforce to get rid of diving. However, consistency is required, not only within the Champions League, but across all football.

The English FA need to take heed of the example set by UEFA and ban Wayne Rooney for his crime. It was an appalling decision from Mike Dean, but on occasion every referee will be conned by a cunning dive, and so to have the guts to step in and punish players who have successfully conned the on-pitch officials is an important step.

Referees are after all, only human, and there are limits to their perception, even when not being blatantly biased, and if we have to step in post-match to enforce the rules then so be it. However, consistency has to go both ways, and if we are to ban Eduardo and Rooney for cheating then we should also ban Mike Dean for the same crime.

If you get the chance to watch the match over again, I encourage you to do so, and watch carefully at every decision he makes. I don’t have the memory capacity to remember every single incident that seemed to be wrong, and to list them all would seem to be pedantic anyway. But watching the game as a neutral, it was clear that Arsenal weren’t getting a fair rub of the green.

The penalty decision was clearly wrong, as were various other little ones, like when Bacary Sagna was booked for protesting a throw-in awarded to United that quite clearly came of the foot of Nani. It was these little things that ultimately made it nearly impossible for Arsenal to press home their dominance. When every little decision goes against you, it’s really difficult to maintain your calm and focus on your football.

What’s more was that Dean was useless enough to give Rooney a penalty that so clearly wasn’t a foul but had denied Andrey Arshavin a stone-wall one just 30 seconds before his goal. Arsenal fans would have been furious had the Russian not forced the ball into the net moments later, because Arshavin turned on a sixpence and flicked the ball past Fletcher before being unceremoniously dumped to the ground by the Scot.

The icing on the cake though was when the referee was stupid enough to try and send Arsene Wenger to the stands after he kicked out at a water bottle in frustration when his side had a late equaliser ruled out. Gallas was offside, there’s no dispute there, but why can’t Wenger show his disappointment? He didn’t hurt anyone (water bottles don’t have feelings), and just showed how much he cared about the game. I can see nothing wrong with that but the referee had to wade in and have his say.

This is the thing for me. When I look back over the game and try to think who I would pick as my man of the match, no one really stands out. Nemanja Vidic would be a contender, he put himself about in his usual ferocious fashion and Abou Diaby also had an excellent game – excluding the mysterious and ultimately costly own goal.

However, the man who had the most impact on the game as a whole was, unfortunately, Mike Dean. It was his influence that shone through most strongly, not giving a clear penalty, awarding United a penalty for nothing, and ultimately giving United the advantage wherever he possibly could. I’m not saying that this was done purposefully, it probably wasn’t, but if that’s the case, then Dean is simply a quite terrible referee.

That’s worrying, given that one would assume that the man in charge of such a high profile game would be the man in whom the FA have the most confidence. After such a terrible display though, I hope that the FA reconsider their confidence in a man who gave out more bookings and penalties than any other official last season, and send him where he belongs – to the lower leagues.

Because ultimately, I gave up two hours of sleep in the early hours of Sunday morning to watch a game of football that I thought would be exciting and entertaining. I’m suffering for it now, because I’m knackered, and I’m not sure now if it was entirely worth it.

Yes, at times the game was entertaining and exciting, and Arsenal in particular played some good football. But when my enduring memory of a game of football is not a stunning goal from Andrey Arshavin or a bizarre own goal from Abou Diaby but the ridiculous exploits of the referee, I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed and disillusioned.

A good referee doing his job properly should be almost invisible. You shouldn’t hear his whistle all the time and the main talking point certainly should not be whether or not he made the right decisions. I don’t expect referees to be perfect, but at this level I think it’s fair to expect that a referee should be skilled enough to officiate a match without ruining it.

Unfortunately, Mike Dean was far too incompetent to achieve that and so he has ruined a perfectly good game of football. Arsenal fans have every right to feel robbed by Dean, and I certainly can sympathise with them, but at the end of the day, football is the real loser here. A match between Manchester United and Arsenal should be a showcase of some of the best football in the world. Instead, we got an exhibition of the worst refereeing in the world, and that’s a terrible shame.

Have your say:



17 Responses to Mike Dean: Man of the Match?

  1. memunish says:

    Referee was crazy with some of his yellow cards as well as Wenger sending off.

  2. TL says:

    Thank you, thank you. Rare to hear a reasoned voice, and from what sounds like a true neutral. If you’re so upset, imagine how the fans or the players felt. The result was a travesty and really discourages me from watching more English football.

  3. Silvanna says:

    Manchester United is like Internazionale Milano. Always getting help from referees. Do not worry, Manchester United fans will get what they deserve when the team faces Ancelotti’s Chelsea. I’m confident Arsenal will finish the season ahead of Manchester.

  4. johnny says:

    I am not an arsenal fan,mike dean is a Total example of english refrees and no wounder why they are not well represented in international stage.

  5. Puller says:

    Good analysis. Players have been getting away with these kinds of dives for years. Rooney was already going down before contact before getting touched.

  6. Jan Merola says:

    Agreed, Dean ruined that game for the fans. I watched it in Boston with hundreds of others, was a great site to see.

  7. lekpai says:

    Mike Dean should be red carded, I agree with the writer fully, all the decisions went against Arsenal.

  8. Zeanstep says:


  9. brendan says:

    i finally saw the match this afternoon and i concur with the author’s perspective. way too many biased calls, and a yellow card that found itself at home in the air more than in the pocket. arsenal outplayed united without a doubt and ought to have pulled away with points for a victory as well as the honor of dumping manU in old t.

  10. warner.rem says:

    Manchester United is Always getting help from referees. Arsenal will finish the season ahead of Manchester.

  11. PenguinJAS says:

    So yesterday I saw the match between MU and MC. As an Arsenal fan, I of course love to see MC beat MU at Old Trafford.

    Just a wild guess – from what I have seen in the past few seasons – this is a big conspiracy. After what happened on the pitch of Old Trafford again and again, season after season, like the derby game in Manchester last night, I start to think that EPL is controlled by a group of people like mafia.

    MU players are always protected by the refs. No matter how ugly they foul on their opponents, they always obtain a lenient treatment from the refs. You can see the same kind of foul of a similar level of seriouness, when done by MU players, they are ticked off or even ignored, but when done on MU players, the wrong-doer gets a YC.

    Last night the high-profile Manchester derby was held. I don’t know if you had seen the match but surely if you had you must bear the same question in mind: Why did the ref still let the game go on when the signalled 4 minutes injury time was up? He simply let the game go on until Michael Owen scored the late winner! And it was already 96th minute! Frankly in the second half, MC did not play very well and for the most of time they even could not play the ball to MU’s half.

    But see Fletcher’s 2nd goal. It was from a cheap freekick on the left flank disposed of by Giggs. Surely that was a nice cross and Darren did very well to give his header, but that was really a very cheap freekick awarded. No wonder, it was 80th minute and MU wanted to win the match. The ref gave a hand agian.

    Okay. Let’s don’t argue about that, be it a correct decision. Once again the dominance of MU and the inability to control the ball by MC could mean that MU deserved a win. But Rio Ferdinand gave a special prize to Bellamy to score an equalizer. Now another story begins. There comes a 6 extra minute of playing. We could see Mark Hughs complained to the 4th ref again and again for the prize time. And there was another strange thing, which also bewildered the live commentary, Fergie suddenly subsituted Carrick in at 92th minute. It was very strange. It’s like Fergie already knew that he would have enough time to make a win.

    Benitez got the point last season. He openly asked a very good question: Why is there an official in the FA who is also a member of MU board? This lad was merely asking about a fact. What did he get? A warning by the FA. Normally a simple clarification would be enough, a warning was totally unnecessary.

    OK. Wild guess. Thanks for reading. Maybe all the things are unrelated. But what if they are?

  12. A. Howard says:

    PenguinJAS, first thing first, thanks for your comment, it was a very interesting read.

    I agree with you that decisions go Man Utd’s way far more often than they should, and on occasion I’ve wondered myself if there isn’t some big conspiracy involving them and the referees, but realistically that isn’t the case.

    I think that they get these decisions largely because Old Trafford is an intimidating place to referee a game, and because Alex Ferguson has mastered the art of manipulating referees through careful comments and pressure and occasional intimidation. It’s probably not sporting, but it’s not illegal.

    However, in terms of the Manchester derby yesterday, I don’t see much wrong with the amount of added time that was played, here’s why:

    1) When the referee indicates how much added time there will be, it is always the MINIMUM that will be played. If events demand it, the referee is at liberty to play more than the allocated amount.

    2) On the stroke of 90 minutes, Craig Bellamy scored, and then celebrated for 55 seconds. The guidelines for referees state that a goal scored in injury time can accrue an additional minute on top of the announced added time. So add that minute to the four, plus 55 seconds or so to compensate the celebration and you’ve got almost 6 minutes.

    3) Alex Ferguson, as you pointed out, made a substitution during stoppage time. He did this because the guidelines stipulate that for every substitution made in added time a further 30 seconds must be added. Ferguson knew it would not take 30 seconds to bring Carrick on and so he was using the substitution to gain a few seconds. Add those 30 seconds to the original four plus the extra added on for Bellamy’s goal and you’ve got plenty of time for Owen’s goal to be justified.

    Overall then, I agree that United often get some very generous treatment from match officials, but the timing of Owen’s winner was not contentious and to suggest that there is some larger conspiracy is probably inaccurate.

    Thanks for your comment though, please keep reading the site 🙂

  13. PenguinJAS says:

    Thanks for your reply, Adam.

    When MU really play a good game, even though it is a triumph over Arsenal, I praise their performance, but not when they take the advantage of biased execution of the game rule.

    You know, having watched EPL season after season, the only observation I can get is that MU always enjoy a warm treatment from refs, which I see no other teams in EPL do. Dives, tackles, cheap freekicks, etc. Everything goes for them. If one says it is sheer luck, then I will say MU are just a bit too lucky year after year.

    Of course a fan of football like you and me (not only loving our fave club but the game itself) never wants to see the scandal in Italy happen again. Dubious decisions are normal in football games, yes. A team may benefit in one game, but there are also times when the opponent benefits. And MU? The answer is clear. I hate to say there is a controlling body in the dark working for MU, but there’s no other reasonable answer to explain…

    By the way, I truly hope Everton gain a better position this season. I always think that they deserve a better end-of-season ranking, or at least a silverware. Moyes had managed the team very well these years but unluckily he still can’t find the way to improve consistency. Let’s see.

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    […]Mike Dean: Man of the Match? « They Think It's All Over…[…]…

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