LONDON: Manchester United began their season with a narrow home win over Wolves only probably because of a mistake by the referee and the VAR. That was not what manager Erik ten Hag had wanted or expected from a squad strengthened to the tune of £175m during the summer.
Six minutes into stoppage time United were leading 1:0 through a Raphael Varane goal. Then new United keeper Andre Onana missed a cross and flattened Wolves forward Sasa Kalajdzic. Referee Simon Hooper did not award a penalty, VAR referee Michael Salisbury failed to correct him so United won 1:0.
Minutes after the match Jon Moss, head of refereeing body PGMOL, apologised to Wolves’ new manager Gary O’Neil. Later another apology came from PGMOL’s chief refereering officer Howard Webb. To make matters worse for O’Neil, he was shown a yellow card by Hooper for his protests after the incident. Hooper and Salisbury have both been dropped from his weekend’s match appointments.
In April Salisbury was removed from a weekend of officiating by PGMOL after a similarly controversial error when he failed to award Brighton & a penalty in a draw with Tottenham.
O’Neil said: “I thought live it was a penalty. It looked like the keeper nearly took our forward’s head off. If you go for the ball and clatter the player that hard, it is a penalty.”
Ten Hag thought the decision not to award a penalty had been correct. He said: “It was a tough game but the start of the season is always difficult for every team. In the battle we were not aggressive enough. We can do much better but I also saw many positive things.”
United have not finished with transfer business. Harry Maguire’s proposed £30m move to West Ham has collapsed but United remain interested in Fiorentina’s Morocco midfielder Sofyan Amrabat.