Manchester United benefited from a late misjudgement in their Premier League opener, for which Wolverhampton’s coach even received an apology. However, he felt even worse afterwards.
Three points, no goals conceded – André Onana celebrated a perfect competitive debut in goal for Manchester United. But not much was missing and the new goalkeeper would have been the main culprit for a false start of the Red Devils.
In the home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday evening, the eighth minute of injury time was already running when Onana misjudged a cross. Instead of fisting the ball out of the five-yard area, he rudely cleared Wolves wild card Sasa Kalajdzic. A clear penalty, right?
Not for referee Simon Hooper and VAR Michael Salisbury. While both made contact, the brief check did not result in a retrospective whistle or even an on-field review, only a yellow card for Wolves coach Gary O’Neil, who had complained on the touchline.
Manchester United robbed Wolves yesterday abeg pic.twitter.com/rvKy4hQ887
– I Z U – Tequila Ever After (@heisizumichaels) August 15, 2023
“I was told it wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake,” O’Neil shook his head in disbelief after the game, which Wolves were unlucky to lose 1-0. “It looked like the goalkeeper nearly took our centre-forward’s head off. When you reach for the ball and hit the player that hard, it’s a penalty. “
The referee bosses immediately apologise to the Wolves
Even Jon Moss, general manager of the referees’ association PGMOL, agreed, O’Neil reported. “I spoke to him and he fairly apologised and said it was a clear penalty and it should have been given,” said the 40-year-old, who took over the Wolves coaching reins from Julen Lopetegui just days ago. “That probably made me feel worse. When you know you were right about something, you feel even worse when you’re empty-handed after a game.”
PGMOL boss Howard Webb is also said to have apologised to officials of the visitors, who have little to gain from it. Last season, O’Neil, then coach of AFC Bournemouth, had already felt repeatedly – often justifiably – wronged. And the fact that Salisbury was involved as VAR on Monday is also piquant: the referee had once had to sit out in April because he had not intervened as VAR when Brighton should have been awarded a penalty against Tottenham.
The late equaliser “would have been the least we deserved”, O’Neil complained. And the wrong decision was also bitter for Kalajdzic: In his first Premier League appearance in almost a year, the ex-Stuttgart player, who had torn his cruciate ligament for the second time shortly after his transfer last summer, almost came back with an “assist”. After all, the 26-year-old Austrian was able to continue playing after Onana’s miscue.