A Defence of Mike Riley

I feel the level of criticism is unwarranted.

He got most of the decisions right. The Ljundberg / Ferdinand coming together was probably the most controversial. It was a push, but Ljunberg’s reaction was to get on with it and his touch had ruined the chance anyway. Is Ferdinand still technically the last man? Yes. Was it a clear goal scoring opportunity? No, I think the heavy touch voided it.

The Rooney / Campbell ‘tackle’ looked every inch a penalty from the referee’s position. Campbell dangled his leg across Rooney’s path and whether there was contact or not, nearly every referee in the business would have given it. Andy Gray said “that’s a penalty” as soon as it happened. Only after 15 replays did he change his mind. The one Riley missed was Ashley Cole upending Ronaldo. The assistant Referee was in line and didn’t flinch. Ronaldo’s reputation doesn’t help, I guess, but Riley got no support from his assistant.

So, if there is a criticism, it’s in the choice of assistant referees. I don’t know whether this is Riley’s decision or the FA’s, but he needed greater support. Van Nistelrooy was intent on snidey kicks and unchecked petulance and there were off-the-ball incidents that no referee could have spotted.

Riley tried to keep the cards to a minimum and showed composure in the opening half hour. He knew the first booking would be the start of a deluge. Perhaps he should have told Vieria to stop following him around, but he’d obviously thought about involving the captains in dialogue rather than isolate himself completely.

It was a scrappy game, verging on the impossible to referee (and he didn’t get every decision right), but I think he made a decent job of it.