Ref thought Brown made key foul
Referee Roger East has told the body responsible for officiating standards in English football it was not a case of mistaken identity when he sent off Sunderland's Wes Brown at Manchester United.
East believed both Brown and John O'Shea made contact with Radamel Falcao before awarding the penalty from which Wayne Rooney scored to put United on their way to a 2-0 win.
It is understood that East believed Brown had made the critical challenge, which is why he was given his marching orders, while O'Shea was not even booked despite being in the thick of the incident.
With the match at Old Trafford scoreless, East awarded the spot-kick to United in the 64th minute.
Replays showed O'Shea pulled Falcao back just as he was about to shoot, and Brown came around to challenge the Colombian.
As East reached into his pocket, it was expected that he would show the red card to O'Shea, but the official decided to send off Brown instead.
O'Shea pleaded with East to send him off instead, but Brown walked.
With East facing stiff criticism in match reports and on social media, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) was unusually quick to put out the referee's take on events, which emerged within two hours of the final whistle.
The PGMOL said in a statement: "From his position Roger East, the match referee, believed he saw contact from John O'Shea and Wes Brown on Radamel Falcao.
"As he thought Brown made a foul on Falcao while he was in the act of shooting, he dismissed Brown.
"After the incident the match referee consulted with his team of officials but none were better placed to offer guidance."
The controversy came on the day that football's lawmakers, the International FA Board, delayed live trials of video technology at matches for at least 12 months.
It also came at a time when match officials are coming under close scrutiny after a series of controversial calls.
East's fellow referee Martin Atkinson was in the spotlight last weekend for his decision not to take action against Burnley's Ashley Barnes for a studs-up challenge on Chelsea's Nemanja Matic, and his subsequent dismissal of the Serbian, who bundled Barnes to the ground in the aftermath.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho called the challenge on Matic an ''end of career'' tackle, but the Football Association declined to take any retrospective action against Barnes, with Atkinson deemed to have been in the best place to make a judgement.
Another referee, Kevin Friend, came under fire for turning down a string of penalty claims during Liverpool's 2-0 win at Southampton last Sunday.
Both Atkinson and Friend were handed fourth official duties this weekend.
Alan Shearer claimed there was no doubt East was wrong to send off Brown.
The former England captain said on Match of the Day: "There is no contact at all from Wes Brown so without doubt he has sent the wrong man off."
Ruud Gullit added: "T he first foul of O'Shea is obvious, he holds him back. This is already a penalty, that is already the foul, so what happened after that is not even relevant."