Ole Gunnar Solskjær accused rival managers of looking to influence referees against Manchester United after his side were controversially denied a penalty during their goalless draw with Chelsea, whose laboured attacking display saw them miss an opportunity to return to the top four.
Although Solskjær acknowledged United failed to do enough to win a dull encounter, he was left fuming after Stuart Attwell decided not to penalise a handball by Callum Hudson-Odoi during the ea rly stages at Stamford Bridge. Attwell waved play on after the video assistant referee told him to check the on-pitch monitor and there was further controversy when Luke Shaw claimed the official told United’s captain, Harry Maguire, that he chose not to award a penalty because he was worried about the post-match reaction.
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The decision left Solskjær, whose side lie 12 points behind Manchester City at the top of the league, struggling to contain his anger. The Norwegian said referees have been under pressure not to give United decisions since comments by Frank Lampard, Chelsea’s former manager, last season. He even hit out at analysis on Chelsea’s website referencing Maguire escaping a red card for a challenge on César Azpilicueta in the penalty area when the sides met in the league last season. The sense of injustice was clear despite Solskjær choosing not to elaborate on Shaw’s remark about Attwell.
“I can’t say because that’s not going to be good for him,” Solskjær said. “I don’t want to cause controversy but that’s not right, is it? It’s all these outside influences, VAR talk from [Chelsea] about Harry – that’s cheeky putting it on their website, that’s influencing referees.
“You can read what they’re saying about Harry Maguire, putting pressure on referees to give penalties against us. We’ve seen a manager, was it Frank [Lampard] that started it? There’s loads of talk about us getting penalties when there is no doubt whatsoever. And now, today, we should have had a penalty.” Shaw was baffled by Attwell’s decision. “I don’t know why they stopped it, if it’s not going be a pen,” the left-back said. “The ref told H [Harry Maguire]: ‘If I say it’s a pen there’s going to cause a lot of talk about it after.’”
Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool’s manager, spoke about the number of penalties United have been awarded earlier this year. Solskjær was incensed that Hudson-Odoi escaped and is concerned that United are not getting the rub of the green. “They probably thought his hand was in a very natural position when he flicked that ball,” he said. “I’m a bit concerned we don’t get them penalties after noises were made a month or two ago about us getting penalties. Clearly there is a point of managers influencing referees.”
Chelsea’s manager, Thomas Tuchel, insisted it was not a penalty. “I was surprised,” he said. “I could not see any incident that should qualify for a penalty. Maybe I have to look at it again. Until now I don’t know why it should be a penalty.”
A point leaves Chelsea, who visit Liverpool on Thursday, a point behind fourth-placed West Ham. “We tried everything to win,” Tuchel said.
“We are in the middle of a battle for top four. It’s the moment to hang in and take performances every three or four days, which demands a lot. It is also difficult to play against us. It would have been a big step but it would have not been the last step.”
Tuchel, who remains unbeaten since replacing Lampard, lost Callum Hudson-Odoi to a thigh injury and left Tammy Abraham out of his squad for tactical reasons. The Chelsea striker was fit. “Things are a bit difficult for him,” Tuchel said. “He will get full support.”