Former elite Premier League referee Howard Webb has revealed that the decision he regrets most in his career was in a game involving Manchester United.
Webb famously decided against sending off Nigel De Jong in the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands in South Africa after he practically assaulted Xabi Alonso.
But Webb, who officiated over 500 games in his professional career, has named a penalty decision in a game between United and Tottenham in 2009 at Old Trafford as the one he wishes he could reverse.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s United were in the midst of a fierce title battle with bitter rivals Liverpool, but fell 2-0 behind with Darren Bent and Luka Modric the goalscorers.
Then, Michael Carrick appeared to be felled by Heurelho Gomes in the box and a penalty was awarded.
“I could see Carrick got there first and then the goalkeeper clattered into him, it was really an easy penalty award,” Webb said in an interview with the Athletic.
“I was expecting the usual cursory appeal that you get from the players, not the huge look of absolute astonishment and amazement and incredulousness on the look of Gomes.
“It was obvious within seconds I’d got the decision wrong. There was something more to this.”
After Cristiano Ronaldo slammed the penalty home to halve the deficit, the momentum had shifted completely and there was only going to be one winner with Spurs folding after the controversial decision.
United won the game 5-2 in one of the all-time great Premier League comebacks, and went on to prevent Liverpool from winning their first title since 1990.
Webb, who is now general manager of the MLS’ Professional Referees Organization, has also had his say on VAR and the affect it has had on the game this season.
“The good thing now is that we do have a system in place where we can rectify some of the more egregious errors and we’re pretty pleased with the way it has worked so far,” he added.
“The fact that we have been able to rectify some big errors, we’ve been able to give officials confidence — so in that game at Old Trafford, I could have had a much better final 30 minutes knowing that I had, yes, made an error, but having seen it again from a better angle, I was able to put it right.”