Soccer  

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City: Was Bruno Fernandes’ equaliser a ‘joke’ or ‘intelligent’?

Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji says Bruno Fernandes’ equalising goal in the Manchester derby was a “joke”, while Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag admitted he “wouldn’t be happy if we conceded a goal like this”.

Fernandes swept past Ederson to cancel out Jack Grealish’s opener, but the goal was initially ruled out with assistant referee Darren Cann raising his flag for offside against Marcus Rashford.

The England international was clearly offside, and ran towards the ball, but after a conversation with Cann referee Stuart Attwell decided Rashford did not interfere with play.

Rashford turned home Alejandro Garnacho’s cross moments later to give United a 2-1 win at a raucous Old Trafford, leaving them one point behind second-placed City.

‘I can see the disappointment in the other side’

Akanji was the closest defender to Rashford, and played the offside trap as the forward ran through on Casemiro’s ball.

He ran towards the ball before leaving it after getting a shout from Fernandes, who finished past an advancing Ederson.

Fernandes reacted angrily to the offside flag and both sets of players crowded around Cann and Attwell during their discussion.

“To be honest the first goal is a joke,” Akanji told BBC Match of the Day. “I saw Rashford, he was clearly offside, so I played him offside.

“He runs until the last second and he stops when the ball is in front of him and he’s right in front of Eddy [Ederson], ready to score the goal, because Bruno Fernandes is shouting him.

“I understand he doesn’t touch the ball but he’s running for 30 metres and until the last second. For me it is clearly offside. The referee doesn’t even look at the situation, it got explained at the start of the year this would be clearly offside.”

Ten Hag, who won his first Manchester derby at the second time of asking, said: “I could see on the other side that it confused the backline, that was clear. It is also the rule.

“I wouldn’t be happy if it was my team as well if we conceded a goal like this. I can see the disappointment in the other side, but I can also see the referee did well.”

City boss Pep Guardiola added: “Marcus Rashford is offside, Bruno Fernandes is not. Rashford distracted our keeper and centre defenders. It is what it is. We know where we play. It is difficult for the referees in these stadiums.”

Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards, speaking on BBC Match of the Day, said: “It is a shocking decision, let’s be honest.

“The nature of it, as a defender if someone is there, say you’re the striker, I am constantly adjusting my position based on where you’re going to be. I’m not worried about anyone behind me. You’re trying to play a high line and that’s an art.”

Ex-England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright added: “It should have been offside. Manuel Akanji stops because he sees Marcus Rashford running offside. He is interfering because Akanji has tried to play him offside and then Ederson has moved to save where he thinks he’s going to shoot. He’s taken everyone’s attention.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker added: “I don’t understand how you can possibly say that Rashford isn’t interfering.”

‘He’s interfering with nobody’

For their part, Rashford and Fernandes thought the goal should have stood.

“I thought I went a bit early so I didn’t run. If I ran for the ball I would have just took it or shot or passed. I thought I was offside so I didn’t touch the ball,” Rashford said.

“That’s all I can do in that situation and then it’s up to the referee and linesman. In my opinion I wasn’t involved in the play. I felt like it should have stood.”

Fernandes, speaking on BT Sport, said: “I was facing the goal, Marcus probably saw I was in a better position. I didn’t know if either of us was offside. He didn’t make any influence on the defenders. It is what it is.”

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and midfielder Paul Scholes, working as pundits on BT Sport, agreed.

Ferdinand said: “Rashford doesn’t impact any of the defenders running strides, patterns or positions. It is intelligent from him and Fernandes. I don’t feel any of the defenders can influence any of it.”

Scholes said: “He’s interfering with nobody. It is good communication and a great finish.”

Former Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott agreed it should have been a goal, but added: “That’s the part of the rule I don’t like. The defender has done well to play offside.”

What does the law say?

The official Ifab law book for 2022-23 (rule 11.2) says:

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate or
  • interfering with an opponent by:

1. Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or

2. Challenging an opponent for the ball or

3. Clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or

4. Making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

or

  • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:

1. Rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent

2. Been deliberately saved by any opponent

‘Rashford has to be interfering’ – how social media reacted

Ben: I support neither team but that is 100% offside. Rashford faints to shoot and goalie and defenders watching two players. Officials make it up as they go along.

Paul J: Rashford doesn’t impede or play that ball. It HAS to stand. Nothing controversial about it.

Steve: Shocking VAR didn’t deny the first goal and the second came as a consequence of it. Refs and VAR are indefensible.

Alex Haworth: I mean the equaliser is 100% offside, Rashford has shepherded the ball to Bruno. But what a turnaround.

Andrew Mitchell: I’m a Utd fan so I’m obviously happy, but yet another exhibit of how ridiculous the offside rule is. Rashford may not have touched it, but he’s is chasing that ball, for all intents and purposes he’s the one in possession it, how can he not be an active player?

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