QPR's visit to Old Trafford, under the managership of one of United's favorite sons, could have been something really special. Instead, it left a sour taste in the mouth, an uneasy feeling in the stomach.
How was it that the linesman did not flag for offside before Ashley Young was even "fouled"? This made everything that happened afterward an absolute lie.
QPR were a man down and forced to play a lopsided defensive drill for 90 minutes, scrambling for scraps of possession and rushing to try to capitalize. The spirited resistance they maintained is a huge testament to the belief that Mark Hughes has instilled in these players in such a short time.
The game lost something important in the early part of it. The illusion of fairness was gone. The players didn't ask for it. It was an official's error.
The game was changed as a spectacle with that glaring error. Again, a case for technology; why not a fast way for a ref to review big decisions?
Red cards in particular. Something completed within 30 seconds would be ideal. A revision of a decision for the best possible outcome, a proper game of football, and as a result, the possibility of far less outrageously bad refereeing.
Anyone who denies that it was never a penalty or a sending-off is literally having a laugh.
The handshake was funny, as Ferguson seemed in a strange way apologetic. His expression to Hughes said something like, "Sorry, Sparky, you know what it's like here sometimes."
Is there place for a 30-second review of red cards and penalty decisions?
In the aftermath, he even said that he though it was offside, according to the Manchester Evening News.
I watched the game hoping for some bolt from heaven to guide QPR to a draw, a moment of magic that would set the cosmic order back on track. Unfortunately for that notion, it seemed that the cosmic order was for United to win and put one firm hand on the trophy.
QPR had been in excellent form in the lead-up to this game, beating teams that would have laughed at the idea that they would lose to them. United were in a tricky position, playing a team that was in good form, against a manager who has occasionally done very well against Ferguson over the years.
Within 15 minutes, that was all out the window in a terrible moment, which saw the game turned into a cakewalk.
This puts a slight taint on the masterful work that has been done by Alex Ferguson in once again being able to push his team to a place that many thought impossible. Again and again, United have been written off in recent times, and again, they come back and show that there is an art to winning and a necessary driving force that enables that art to be rendered.
Once again, Ferguson has shown that he can take an apparent lack of resources (in the sense of big teams, of course; compared to most of the clubs in the world, United are hardly lacking) and grind down the very usurper that threatened to vanquish him.
Manchester City have had the most money in world football ever, approaching four years in August, and only the FA Cup to show for it.
This is an achievement that underlines again the superiority of a manager like Ferguson, in that he can still compete with an opponent who out-resources him, as he had done at United many times and also with Aberdeen prior to his United career.
Unfortunately now, with the sorry sight of two highly regarded and paid officials getting it horribly wrong on the weekend, the shine is reduced slightly, as QPR and Hughes can legitimately say, they were robbed at Old Trafford.