I did not see Manchester United's Champions League game with Real Madrid on Tuesday night. But from what I saw on twitter, while I was taking in some non-league football, anyone would have thought he had been sent off having knocked someone down with a feather. Twitter was going crazy, the whole football world seemed to be going crazy, except for Roy Keane, it seems. Ridiculous, embarrassing, never a red, poor ref - they were just some of the words and phrases being bandied about in the immediate aftermath of the incident. All I have to go on is the clip that I saw the following day and on first reaction, I can understand where the referee is coming from and can see why he brandished a red card. The over the top outrage at the decision is what's ridiculous, not the actual red card itself. The problem we have is that the laws of the game are so ambiguous that referees do not stand a chance. He has applied what he deems to be the letter of the law on this occasion. Nani's boot is high, the studs are showing and he catches Alvaro Arbeloa in the ribs. I've heard some argue that he caught him in the arm, watch it again, it's the ribs. Whether he meant it or not is questionable, he appears only to have eyes for the ball, but most footballers will tell you when they go in for a sliding challenge with their studs showing that they only have eyes for the ball and any contact is accidental. The accidental issue is an interesting one as well. If we let everyone off who said "sorry ref, I didn't mean it," we'd be letting a hell of a lot of people off the hook. Some have asked me whether I believe an overhead kick in the box that connects with another player should be a red card or not. Again it depends on the referee. If he thinks it's dangerous play and causes harm to an opponent, then why not? I don't think we should be handing out red cards like that. I'm an advocate of the slide tackle, used in the right way, and don't like seeing red cards handed out for petty crimes. All we want to see is the beautiful game being played the way it should be, but there has to be a line somewhere and the real problem is that the law is too much like a line in the sand. The laws of the game leave too much room for manoeuvre and opinion. What one person thinks is a penalty, others will see as a dive, it's all the same. Does Gareth Bale go down too easily? Probably, yes. Does he get clipped? Normally, yes. Is a clip enough for a penalty or should he stay on his feet? Who knows? The referee on Tuesday night clearly felt Nani was acting dangerously and applied the serious foul play legislation. I must admit it did seem a touch harsh, I would not have shown red, but you can see why the referee did. So let's not get on his back, it's pointless, we need referees in our game. It's over, it's done, get on with it.
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