THE most dreadful aspect about the controversial goal scored by Nani for Manchester United in their 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday was not that it was allowed, because there are arguments both ways on that issue, but the pathetically weak behaviour of referee Mark Clattenburg.

The goal came about after Nani had fallen to the ground claiming a penalty after colliding with Spurs defender Younes Kabul.  After falling, Nani put his hand on the ball and Gomes, assuming that a free kick had been given, picked it up and placed ball on the ground a few yards away preparing to take the kick.

Nani checked with Clattenburg that no free-kick had been given before knocking the stationary ball into the net.  Referee’s assistant Simon Beck then flagged for handball by Nani but was overruled by Clattenburg who insisted that he had waved play-on.

Now Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was right to feel aggrieved. “It was a deliberate handball and everybody saw him handle it. He (Beck) had put his flag up to say it wasn’t legal. I thought it was a scandalous decision.”

And Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was equally on sound ground to suggest that Gomes was clearly at fault for not playing to the whistle.  But for me, the most disgraceful aspect of the whole affair came when Clattenburg went over to consult the referee’s assistant.  Television pictures show him aggressively waving away several Tottenham players.  Moments later the same camera shot shows United skipper Rio Ferdinand come up and listen in on the conservation between the two officials and also make his own contribution.

Come on then Mr Clattenburg, what is it? One law for Tottenham and another for super-club Manchester United on their home turf in front of a baying 75,000 crowd? If the Tottenham players were shooed away why wasn’t Ferdinand told to clear off?

Referees like Mr Clattenburg and their feeble kowtowing need to be taken to task.

Now if you think I’m being a little harsh here, read on. Mr Clattenburg was the referee in January 2005 when a shot by Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes crossed the goal line by at least a yard, but no goal was given. Where was this? Why at Old Trafford of course!

Unfortunately it’s not just Mr Clattenburg. Turn the clock only a week back to when Manchester United won 2-1 at Stoke and veteran United defender Gary Neville. already on one booking, somehow escaped a second card and subsequent dismissal after a vicious scything tackle on Stoke winger Matthew Etherington.  The referee on that occasion was Andre Marriner, another official who it would appear seems incapable of applying the rules properly to Manchester United.

There was one good piece of news involving Manchester clubs at the weekend – City lost 2-1 away to hard-working, no frills, no expensive stars Wolves.

City manager Roberto Mancini seems an honest, decent fellow but the world of football will be a better place if his mega-rich bosses do not succeed in their shameless aim of trying to buy total domination of the Premier League and European stage by splashing out outrageous sums on transfers and wages.

City have already lost three of their first 10 games and if they carry on at this rate Mancini may well find himself out of the door by Christmas to be replaced by another foreign mercenary who will supervise the January spending blitz that will inevitably follow.

It was also nice this week to see that club chairmen who make reckless decisions see the fruits of their efforts blossom:  League One side Notts County sacked manager Craig Short last week after only 13 league games in charge.   Short, a former Notts player, was given a three year contract in the summer but was turfed out despite the fact that County were sitting comfortably in a mid-table position. What a ridiculously short period of time to decide that you need a change of a manager and if anybody should go, it should be the person who saw fit to hand him a three year contract only a few months ago.

Almost immediately Notts brought in the former Manchester and England star Paul Ince as boss – again on a three year contract.  On Saturday in front of  their biggest crowd of the season – 9,547 – Notts slumped to a 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Southampton.

What are the chances of Ince seeing out the full duration of his contract?

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