Man Utd Got Lucky With Sunday's Penalty Incident But Marcus Rashford Is No Diver

Jamie Spencer

The headlines after Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Swansea on Sunday centred on the club's 10th home draw of a frustrating season and the damage the result has done to a top four challenge that looked as though it would succeed.

But during the game, before Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised with a sublime late free-kick, the focus was all on Marcus Rashford 'diving' to win a penalty in first half stoppage time.


Wayne Rooney converted the spot-kick to give United the lead, one that they probably didn't deserve having sluggishly spent much of the opening 45 minutes chasing Swansea shadows.

The social media finger was pointed at Rashford anyway, with users fuming at such theatrics as he tumbled past the hands of Lukasz Fabianski. Had Sigurdsson not struck back and that moment handed United the win the outcry after the game would have been far greater.

United did get lucky and it shouldn't have been a penalty. Fabianski pulled his hands away at the last moment and avoided contact with the 19-year-old. That much is not up for debate.

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League

What isn't so clear cut, despite what outraged critics say, is an obvious intent to kid the referee with the art of 'simulation'. Did Rashford actively dive? Probably not.

In that moment, Rashford would have seen the frame of Fabianski flying towards him and as he nudged the ball past the Swansea stopper, he would have anticipated heavy contact with the goalkeeper. Given a choice between taking the full force of that on his ankles and risking injury, maybe ligament damage, maybe worse, he opted to prepare for the impact.

The challenge never came, though. The fact that Fabianski pulled his hands away and avoided any contact himself saw Rashford essentially jump over thin air in the end. It made it look as though he was floored by only his own intention to deceive the referee, but it's not so black and white.

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League

There was no exaggerated fall, the kind of which Ashley Young has been guilty of in the past, no hysterics. As it was, Rashford hurt himself in the fall anyway, but what he was doing was anticipating what was going to happen and taking steps to protect himself. It was only when the scene he'd painted in his head didn't happen that we have this situation at all.

The tiny flick at Fabianski's body with his right foot towards the end of the sequence, even that's not obvious, was possibly a realisation from Rashford that he suddenly had no reason to be going to ground and came as a desperate attempt to justify the jump and fall.

Was it a penalty? No. Was it a dive? No to that, too.

To continue the discussion on Twitter follow @jamiespencer155



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