Manchester United are fast earning the reputation of “divers” in the Premier League, and David Moyes has been told by former official Graham Poll he was wrong to side with his players following Wednesday’s 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham.
Three major incidents saw United players hit the deck at Old Trafford, but on all three occasions referee Howard Webb ruled against the home side.
The World Cup official twice waved away penalty appeals for Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young, and he also booked Adnan Januzaj for diving.
Young’s penalty appeal, when Hugo Lloris came rushing from his goal with studs raised, particularly angered Moyes, as reported by Sky Sports:
It was scandalous, a scandal. If you follow through on a player anywhere else on the pitch with your foot high, it would be a sending-off and a red card. You couldn't do that anywhere else.
It's an incredible decision which didn't go our way, in fact probably the one of the worst I think I saw.
All I can tell you is that (Lloris' challenge on Young) is a stonewall penalty kick. If that isn't given a penalty kick, I don't think we will get any more in the league this season.
The incident came late in the game, when United enjoyed their best spell of pressure, trailing 2-1. Moyes undoubtedly had a point that Lloris’ studs were raised, although no actual contact was made.
Former referee Poll sided with the United boss on that decision, writing in his Daily Mail column: “Lloris makes no contact with the ball but brings Young down after he crosses the ball. Technically a penalty. Webb mistake.”
However, it is likely Young—and United—suffered from the fact they have cried wolf too often, not only throughout the season, but in this one game alone.
Manchester United's Danny Welbeck pips Oscar to 'dive of the day' against Spurs http://t.co/l21LLc43B6— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) January 1, 2014
Earlier, Welbeck had hit the deck in search of a penalty, his appeals rightly waved away by Webb according to Poll:
Danny Welbeck dives to try to win a penalty, although his act of simulation does not compare with Oscar’s at Southampton. The initial view is that Vlad Chiriches makes no contact and a yellow card for Welbeck is appropriate.
But replays show very slight contact and so, according to FIFA guidelines, this falls into the category of exaggeration not simulation and Webb is correct to wave play on.
VERDICT: Webb gets it right
Later, Januzaj fell outside of the area under the attention of Danny Rose, again seemingly lacking any encouragement. Moyes was furious at the consequential booking for simulation, per Sky Sports:
"Have you seen that decision?" Moyes asked. "That is a terrible decision. Adnan has got bumped. The boy has tried to edge him off the ball."
Poll’s opinion of the situation was rather different to the United boss, per his Mail column:
Webb cautions United’s Adnan Januzaj for a dive—yet another yellow card for simulation for the young man and further evidence of how this offence is so prevalent in our game.
VERDICT: Webb correct
United, and Moyes in particular, are doing themselves no favours attacking officials when it comes to the subject of diving—something for which they have created more headlines than any other side this season.
Young, Welbeck, Januzaj and even Wayne Rooney have all been guilty of simulation this term, so it is no surprise to see referees taking a sceptical view when actual fouls take place against them.
England forward Young, in particular, has sparked controversy in games against Crystal Palace and Real Sociedad, so his late tumble over Lloris’ raised boot unsurprisingly went unrewarded.
Moyes once gained admiration from rival fans for his no-nonsense attitude towards diving while Everton manager. He publicly condemned Phil Neville for a tumble against Liverpool back in Oct. 2012, as reported by David Anderson of the Mirror, regardless of the fact Moyes had earlier accused Luis Suarez of being the diver.
How many dives did United commit vs. Spurs?
The Scot began his reign at United in similar fashion, rebuking Young for one of his falls against Palace—per Daniel Taylor of the Guardian, but since then he has defended several incidents despite evidence to the contrary.
United’s current situation is desperate. They need a miracle to defend their title, now 11 points off top spot. Even a Champions League place, at this stage, looks difficult with fourth-placed Liverpool five points ahead.
Poor performances on the pitch are being compounded by shameful acts of gamesmanship, with Moyes currently in control of neither as the champions lose their grip at the top of English football.