Wilson Palacios is a very lucky man. Or rather Cristiano Ronaldo is. Each player’s good fortune centres around a two-footed tackle the Honduran midfielder launched in the direction of the Portuguese’s knee-caps in the recent blockbuster at Old Trafford. The latter because he skilfully avoided contact; the former because he less-skilfully avoided any punishment from Howard Webb. A stern ticking-off for what can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to injure an opponent was all Webb deemed necessary.
That the man in charge thought it a minor offence is outrageous. That the player in question has avoided further condemnation in the mass media is even worse. Heaven knows headlines gave enough focus to another refereeing decision. The brilliant, title-defining comeback by United was to an extent overshadowed by a debatable penalty which provided the spring-board for the memorable turnaround. Webb was even forced to admit his 'mistake', saying it “wasn’t the best” decision of his career.
Why, if the media are intent on analysing every move a ref makes were they blind to Palacios’ potential career-ender? Just as Redknapp claimed the penalty changed the game irreconcilably, the lack of a red to Spurs’ most effective midfield player produced the same effect, earlier on in proceedings.
Ronaldo was rightly sent off for a similar tackle on Andy Cole in 2006’s derby match at Eastlands. Journalists churned out a massive amount of column inches of condemnation in the immediate aftermath. The reaction is notably muted on this occasion. We are left to wonder why that is.
In an interesting footnote, Paul Scholes wasn’t so blind. Within minutes of coming on as a sub he’d introduced himself to Wilson with the only way he knows how. Multiple times. If the man in the middle wasn’t going to enforce the rules, the Ginger Assassin was.