Manchester City must wait to secure the Premier League title after Manchester United mounted an incredible second-half derby fightback to come from two goals down to win at Etihad Stadium.

The game wasn’t without controversy however and there were three incidents for Mark Halsey to dissect:

1. Ashley Young handball, should have been a penalty – Difficult decision for Martin but what is AR Lee Betts doing? He had a great view and should be alerting the referee. Martin was too far away and players were in the way so that’s why he hasn’t seen it, so for me Lee has to get involved.

2. Another Young foul, another penalty – United were lucky that Atkinson didnt recognise this as a foul challenge when Young fouled Sergio Aguero in the penalty area with a reckless challenge with excessive force. Immediately Martin waves it away and so the AR Stephen Child won’t get involved. Young was lucky on both occasions that the referee didn’t penalise both incidents.

3. Fernandinho should have seen red – Moments after that penalty incident Fernandinho fouled Lingard with a reckless excessive force challenge. He should have seen red. He momentarily lost control of the game and that’s why we saw tempers flare towards the end.


  1. Mark, I feel you’re being extremely polite. I don’t like criticising referees but I thought it was a dire performance by M Atkinson today. It’s a sad day when a English referee becomes a walking advertisement for VAR and why FIFA view ‘Norbert’ from Tahiti in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as a more safe pair of hands than ANY English referees for the forthcoming World Cup. With those two elements in mind, I found it an extremely difficult watch as a member of refereeing fraternity in this country.

    Yes the Young slip was unlucky, but he did gain an advantage as Sterling would have almost certainly tapped in and scored had the ball not hit Young’s hand. Had a striker not been behind Young for a tap in then I could understand why the ref would let the game play on with no award of a penalty – but Atkinson should have identified immediately he gained an advantage and awarded the penalty. It was quite obvious and consequently a big error.

    But the second decision to not award a clear penalty and red card for an reckless and excessive leg breaking lunge was embarrassing. Watching on TV it looked like a rash knee-height lunge and a penalty straight away. The replays only confirmed this. It was disgraceful and so too was the referee’s lack of action. Completely inexcusable to miss at this level of the game and one of the clearest penalties I’ve seen in my 40+ years of following this game. It was even worse that Atkinson obviously saw it as he waved it away almost immediately without assessing the situation at all. Terrible approach by not giving himself any thinking time at all.

    If Atkinson is viewed as one of our most “experienced” officials – yet misses incidents so blatantly obvious to everyone with a pair of eyeballs then god help refereeing in this country. Roll on VAR I guess even though I hate the whole concept.

  2. My last season paying to watch a game that I have watched for over 40yrs with my Dad!
    Game is a shambles and the officials are a shambles and I am done and I am finished!

  3. Js1000 you are omitting in your considerations for handball that the act must be deemed as deliberate. Any advantage accured is irrelevant and has no mention in the laws.
    The pk (for me) at the first time view I saw was a maybe. Certainly not stick on and he gets to see it real time, once, and was decisive enough to say no. When be has seen the tackle, decided its not a foul, there is nothing left to assess.
    Your post does not read of one which a referee would type as clearly you forget handball has to be deliberate.

  4. Ciles – Are you Martin Atkinson? I didn’t mind the first one to be honest, it was accidental, my point was he did gain an advantage. But the second one was a shocker. If our top referees cannot spot a reckless leg-breaking lunge from 10 yards away then we may as well end refereeing as a profession here and now. Ashley Young left the ground with both feet, before proceeding with his follow through above the ball into the knee of an opponent which endangered the safety of another player. It was a terrible tackle and a straightforward decision. We have to be honest with ourselves, if our ‘top’ referee cannot identify that as a bad tackle then we are screwed. I’m glad Keith Hackett and Graham Poll didn’t “gloss over” that one this week because it was an inexcusable one to wave away as Atkinson – for some reason I cannot fathom – did.

  5. So if the handball you are referring to is even by your own rational, accidental, then, its not an offence. Gaining the advantage, or not, is absolutley nothing to do with anything to do with the basis of penalising a handball offence as per the lotg
    Seeing Atknson has since been appointed to the fa cup semi, so, someone somewhere rates his performance.
    Poll’s opinions on anything to do with officiating are null and void given he freely admits he could not control a game even before it had started, and of course embarrassed himself on the biggest stage possible by messing up the basics of keeping track of who you have cautioned, and, how many times..


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