Manchester United may have thumped nine-man Southampton in a record-equalling 9-0 Premier League win on Tuesday night but the main talking point surrounded one of the visitors’ dismissals.
There were no complaints about Alex Jankewitz’s reckless challenge after just two minutes on Scott McTominay, but the Saints could feel aggrieved about Jan Bednarek’s sending off in the dying moments of the match.
United were awarded a penalty when substitute Anthony Martial fell under a challenge from the Poland international. Upon viewing under a VAR recommendation, referee Mike Dean showed Bednarek a straight red card too for no attempt at playing the ball.
The official FA rules state: ‘Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned if the offence was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off.’
"Martial said it's not a foul!"
Jan Bednarek was not happy with the decision that saw him sent off 👀 pic.twitter.com/GxhGv8ncu1
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 2, 2021
It was a double punishment for Southampton and one that looked contentious on replay as many watching felt Martial was already going to ground before being clipped.
And as an incredulous Bednarek headed down the Old Trafford tunnel he revealed that even the Manchester United No 9 admitted to him it wasn’t a foul.
As he trudged off the 24-year-old could be heard astounded: ‘It’s not a foul! Martial said it’s not a foul!’
It completed a miserable night for the centre back who also scored an own goal in the 34th minute to give United a 3-0 lead.
Speaking post-match shell-shocked Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl snubbed the chance to speak about official Dean’s display.
‘Jan Bednarek does not kill him but I do not want to speak about the referee,’ he told BBC Sport.
‘Last week he [Dean] was our VAR and made his mark in the game. It was a stupid foul from the young lad [Jankewitz] and kills everything.’
While Hasenhuttl kept his thoughts to himself BT Sport pundits Rio Ferdinand and Glenn Hoddle were damning of the decision to send off Bednarek.
‘The rule is nonsense. That rule is nonsense that if you bring him down and clash him and say I was trying to play the ball I’m only going to get a yellow card’, Hoddle told BT Sport.
‘But we’ve seen two players [David Luiz was also sent off for Arsenal at Wolves for a similar incident] tonight try and get out of the way and completely not foul him and there’s contact of some sort or the referee says there is contact you get a red card. That can’t be right.
‘If he’d [Dean] have booked Martial there I don’t think any of us would be saying it’s a dreadful decision.
‘But it’s the rule. I don’t understand the rule. That cant be right, where you try to stay on your feet and not make the tackle and you do miss the ball then try and take the player down, you only get a yellow?’
Ferdinand concurred: ‘It goes against everything you’re brought up to know about football. It’s a crazy rule, crazy rule.
‘The reaction on social media tells you everything you need to know about it. There’s absolute disbelief everywhere.
‘Mike Dean has given 109 red cards in his career, the most red cards out of any referee, so he doesn’t mind getting his red card out.
‘You’re going to have to be taught now and rebooted as an individual that you must really go in and try to win the ball rather than try to get out the way. It’s crazy.’