The referee's job is the hardest one in football. But a lack of clarity in the rules is making it that much harder for them.
It was the perfect night. All was well at Old Trafford. The stands -- the ones that are often mocked for their quietness -- were roaring their team on and the one goal advantage which was defiantly deserved. Real Madrid were dangerous, but with a defense that had repelled all attacks against a side which are not the best at breaking down a well organised fortress, our chances were brilliant.
And then a blast of a whistle and a brandishing of a red card ripped the heart out of the stadium. Sure enough, Robert is your father's brother and Madrid with a man advantage made easy work of smashing down the half-open door, thanks to a wonder strike from Luka Modric and the winner from Cristiano Ronaldo.
We here are all hugely passionate fans of our great club Manchester United. However, with the talk before the two-legged tie saying how this was fit for a final -- with Sky Sports billing it as the perfect match -- I feel that it is a travesty that we were robbed of the chance to see the match played out in a more fair manner. Because the decision to send Nani off was anything but fair, as soon as he was banished to the dressing room, the match was ruined.
To quote the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly
"The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they do not know the game.
Never has this phrase been more fitting.
Except it isn't.
Do referee's know the laws any better? When is dangerous play actually dangerous? When a ball strikes an arm, when is it handball? And when is a goal-scoring opportunity a sending-off offense? The rules are a mess and there is no consistency from game to game, league to league or nation to nation. The way the game is headed, and based on Tuesday's decision, why are players attempting overhead kicks not punished when mistimed?
It is becoming more and more a game of who can seize an advantage through the referee, than winning it through skill and tactics, and this is making the referee's job that much harder. And although I am not blaming Alvaro Arbeloa for the referee's decision, the impact his controversial moment had is best summed up by another great manager:
"The best team lost."
Honestly, I hope to god Real Madrid go and win it. As hard as it may be to know we were ousted by them by unfair means, at least we can say that we were ousted by the best.