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NICK ARMITAGE COLUMN

The Big 4 Bias

By Nick Armitage :  26/10/2008 :  Comments (0) :
I took my seat early yesterday and watched the United and Everton players warming up. United looked relaxed and confident - Everton looked condemned. I also watched Carlo Nash with Chris Woods for a couple of minutes – God help us if Tim Howard gets injured.

Usually before games against United the atmosphere is more than a bit spicy, but the early kick offs to accommodate the viewing habits of the Dubai, Bangkok and Johannesburg United supporters clubs, just stop half the ground getting pissed and Goodison was very very quiet. I asked some fella who the ref was and he said Alan Wiley – I honestly thought about going back home at that point. Alan Wiley is a terrible ref anyway, but when he has his assistant, the snidey little gobshite that is Ryan Giggs ordering him about, he gets even worse.

After kick off we huffed and puffed for a few minutes but Berbatov found a big hole where Arteta was supposed to be defending. United overloaded that flank and Berbatov, Ronaldo and Ji-Sung ‘I am playing for Far Eastern marketing purposes’ Park took turns to pulverise the exposed and out of sorts Lescott. Their first went in and I expected an avalanche but we got to half time relatively intact, despite the best efforts of the linesman on the Bullens Road side and the ref himself.

The second half started slowly, that was until Alan Wiley booked the magnificent Philip Neville for nothing. And yes, I did call Philip Neville magnificent. Quite simply Neville and Alan Wiley’s bias turned that game on its head.

Ronaldo had no right whatsoever to go for that ball, his legs were behind him, he had lost possession and had no way of retrieving it. Neville, quite fairly, slid in to knock the ball out of play because the whole of our right flank was out of position and very vulnerable. It was the momentum and arrogance of Ronaldo that caused him to clash with Neville – but did Wiley see it like that? Did he hell! After watching Ferdinand run 40 yards to have a go at Neville, after seeing Ronaldo flailing like a wounded animal and then listening to Giggs no doubt hissing at him to send off his former team mate, he realised that Neville was mere a Man United opponent and he duly booked him.

That was it, Goodison felt she was wronged and the old girl woke up. The blue touch paper was lit.

The game was littered with comic refereeing decisions — without exception all went United’s way. The one that stands out to me was in the second half when Fellaini went up for a header whilst sandwiched by Evra and another United player. Our mophead outmuscled two of them and won the ball, despite being held, pushed and pulled. Wiley blew up and I thought, “about time,” he then pointed to Park End and accused Fellaini of using an elbow. It was pantomime refereeing. Then to rub salt in the wounds, snidey gobshite Giggs marches over to his mate Wiley and tells him to book Fellaini. I was expecting to see a burly fella in a frock skipping onto the pitch singing, “He's behind you.”

Wiley’s bias and piss poor refereeing is just typical when playing against the Big 4. On this occasion it worked in our favour, our players grew as the crowd felt repeatedly cheated and became more vociferous. The more Riley incensed the crowd, the more the crowd cranked up the decibels and got in United’s face. If past history is anything to go by, United fall apart when Goodison starts to roar and combined onslaughts from the terraces and the blue shirts had the desired effect.

Despite the great fight-back and result the slanted commentary and post match analysis left me bewildered and with a sour taste in my mouth. BBC Radio Five Live bizarrely described Fellaini’s goal as "the most undeserved equaliser in the history of football," work that one out if you can. Alex Ferguson also moaned at Wiley for booking Rooney and said that his players weren’t protected enough — this was heavily reported in the media and anyone who hadn’t seen the game could, wrongly, come to the conclusion that we had simply kicked three points out of their champions. This couldn’t have been farther from the truth, United were lucky to get out with a point after a storming second half by Everton.

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