Early Doors

Sorry, Mr Wenger

Early Doors

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Early Doors knows how it feels to be undermined by its superiors. For example, it has recent first-hand experience of being made to work on a bank holiday getting assurances that it would not have to.

So it can sympathise with Lee Probert, the fourth official at Old Trafford who sent Arsene Wenger to the stands on Saturday.

Wenger was told to leave the dugout after kicking a water bottle down the touchline as Robin van Persie's late goal was disallowed.

The move brought on the first enduring image of the season. Expect to see the clip of Wenger surrounded by grinning United fans who could scarcely believe their eyes plenty of times between now and May.

There was some confusion over where Wenger had to sit, and now League Manager's Association chief Richard Bevan has waded in, condemning Probert. It's the second bit of over-reaction from suits in a week for the Gunners, following Eduardo's media-instigated ban for his dive against Celtic.

Bevan said: "Although correct in 'law', it was completely out of context in the game and it was followed by the nonsense which followed over where Arsene Wenger should sit.

"I've spoken to (referee's chief) Keith Hackett and he fully recognises the situation was an error and an apology will follow to Arsene Wenger.

"Lee Probert totally failed to manage the situation and created a needless pressure point taking the focus away from the pitch in a big event with only a minute to go."

So, there you have it, a referee is criticised for making a decision that was correct 'in law'. The nerve of it.

Referees and match officials are there to enforce the laws of the game, not apply them in a polite and dutiful manner as though managers and players are their customers. For Bevan to come out and criticise Probert, seemingly with Hackett's blessing, only serves to undermine the people who need official backing the most.

Sending a manager to the stands for such an act is exactly what he should have done, yet Wenger has somehow become the injured party.

The Gunners' boss is making the most of the moral high ground, complaining after the match that United beat them by playing "anti-football"

"I have seen a player who plays on the pitch only to make fouls," he said. "For me, this is a point that is more urgent than diving.

"The players who are never punished, who get out of the game without a yellow card. I think it is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did."

The irony of the fact that Wenger's players used to collect red cards like children collect Panini stickers will no doubt be lost on him.

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COMING UP:  Three days after picking up their fifth trophy of the season, Barcelona begin the defence of their La Liga crown at home to Sporting Gijon. Follow the match tonight from 8pm.

There are also two matches in the Championship, with Peterborough v Crystal Palace followed by Newcastle v Leicester.

The US Open kicks off today. You can follow LIVE comments of the action in New York from 4pm.

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