”Managers get sacked because of things like that and he’s going to referee a game next week.” Sir Alex Ferguson, bemoaning the fact that Martin Atkinson failed to award United a penalty after Ronaldo was challenged by Distin. For many seasons, visiting teams to Old Trafford, rarely received the benefit of a penalty award. Whilst, United, on the other hand, have usually been generously served by the officials.
So for Martin Atkinson to turn down a United penalty claim, takes courage. It means that he wasn’t swayed by the crowd; the United players; or by the United manager. He made his mind up as he saw it.
United didn’t lose because of Martin Atkinson. If they had been good enough on the day, they would have seen off Portsmouth. But they didn’t. And that is where Sir Alex Ferguson should be directing his attention.
But the attack on the Mr. Atkinson, serves to remind other Premier League officials, that there are consequences if they are seen to be less than perfect in their officiating of United. Having the referees fear him, is a valuable tool for Sir Alex Ferguson. It can be the trigger, that determines a close decision in his team’s favour.
It takes a strong mindset to not be affected by these subtle influences. And, Martin Atkinson, whether rightly or wrongly in his decision-making, demonstrated that quality today.