Sunday 17 December 2017

Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's attempt to influence football's decision-makers is not working

Jose Mourinho, pictured, has branded Ashley Barnes' challenge on Nemanja Matic 'criminal'
Jose Mourinho, pictured, has branded Ashley Barnes' challenge on Nemanja Matic 'criminal'

Paul Scholes

As the most successful manager in the Premier League and its biggest name now that Sir Alex Ferguson has gone, it should be no great surprise to see Jose Mourinho doing his very best to influence the decision-makers in the game, from referees to the FA.

The problem for the Chelsea manager is that I just don’t think it is working for him.

It is inevitable that he would try. All the top managers do it, and I suppose he should be applauded for making the effort to get himself into a television studio and engage in some kind of debate, as he did on Sunday. Everything he does is for the good of his team and I understand the reasons he does it.

It just seems to me there is an unwillingness among referees to be influenced by him. I am not saying they are making the wrong decisions on purpose, just that there is a resistance to being told what to do.

To be clear, I don’t think Nemanja Matic should have been sent off against Burnley. I believe that Cesc Fabregas should have been given a penalty against Southampton. I don’t think that Diego Costa should have been banned retrospectively for stepping on the ankle of Emre Can. But I also think Mourinho should remember that he has had some close calls in other games that have gone his way.

The footage of Branislav Ivanovic locking an arm around James McCarthy’s throat in the Everton game did not look good. Equally, Gary Cahill, when he kicked Harry Kane in the New Year’s Day game at White Hart Lane when the striker was on the ground. Cahill’s challenge on Alexis Sanchez in October that angered Arsène Wenger was not too clever either.

There is no campaign against Mourinho but there is clearly an unwillingness by referees, and the FA, to be pushed around.

There is no doubt that my former manager Sir Alex exerted an influence over some referees. He was the master of dropping a comment into his Friday press conference – for instance, how long it had been since we had been given a penalty, or the treatment meted out to a player like Cristiano Ronaldo. It was always calculated and delivered calmly.

How would I describe the impression I got from some referees when it came to Sir Alex? I think some of them wanted to please him. I don’t mean that they did us favours. It was more that they were very keen not to make mistakes in our games. That when they came to Old Trafford they wanted to be on top of their game and get everything right.

It goes without saying that no one at United ever expected any help. We understood that decisions can go against you. We believed we were the better team and therefore, if the referee got his decisions right then we would win the vast majority of our games.

I don’t know what reaction Mourinho expects from referees in saying what he has about them. If he had hoped that they would be more likely to give his team the split decisions then it has not worked. They seem to be determined not to be seen to be influenced by him.

As for the foul and reprisal that went on between Ashley Barnes and Matic on Saturday, my verdict would have been yellow cards for both of them. It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as Mourinho said. It was not even close. Why? Because Matic got up immediately and ran after him. If a tackle is potentially leg-breaking then, even if the leg in question remains intact, the player fouled does not get up and run after his opponent.

Matic’s reaction was not violent conduct in my view. If it had been a shove in the face or a punch, then it would have been a red. But not a shove in the back. I wonder whether we have reached a point where we can’t tolerate any show of temper or any kind of contact.

As a player I loved being tackled, whether it was in training or in a game. I took a full-blooded challenge as an invitation to do exactly the same thing to an opponent. I would wait for my opportunity and nine times out of 10 I would get him back. If I had to wait for the next time we played the team in question, or the next training session, then so be it.

Burnley's Ashley Barnes, on floor, has escaped punishment from the FA Burnley's Ashley Barnes, on floor, has escaped punishment from the FA When I started as a pro at United, I played alongside Bryan Robson in the A-team and later in the senior side.

With Bryan it didn’t matter what level we were playing, or which one of his team-mates got kicked. Within five minutes you could guarantee that the opponent in question would be in a heap on the floor, courtesy of Bryan. It was what he did and no one complained.

I had some bad tackles on me over the years but I took it as part of the game. One that stands out was a challenge by Bobo Baldé in a Champions League game against Celtic that we lost in Glasgow in 2006. When I watched it back later I was shocked at how my leg bowed. I had got to the ball first and he had caught me. It was nothing malicious. It happens. That was one time I didn’t try to kick him back. He was so big I would only have hurt myself.

I know as well as anyone that certain players can be targeted and that you have to draw the line at reckless, nasty challenges that are genuinely dangerous. But not every tackle that connects with a player is a potential leg-breaker, and not every time you get kicked does there have to be outrage.

As for the refs when I was playing, I never even checked who was in charge of the game. It was not something that played on my mind either before or after the match. For managers, those details are important but just because you talk about referees all the time does not necessarily mean they will give you the breaks.

Paul Scholes column appears in The independent.

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