Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has questioned whether his Manchester United players were distracted by the offside flag against Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang prior to the Arsenal striker’s goal in Monday Night Football’s 1-1 draw.
Although Aubameyang was initially flagged offside, VAR replays showed he had been several yards onside when played through, and the goal was subsequently awarded.
Solskjaer acknowledged the equaliser was a “perfectly good goal”, but the Manchester United boss added: “It made an impact on the situation by raising the flag. When it’s that way, you could wait and then do it later.
“Ashley (Young) certainly holds his hand up because he’s looking at the linesman and maybe hesitates a little bit. Maybe he could have put a block in – that probably would have helped David (de Gea). He probably should have kept the flag down.”
Replays were inconclusive on whether or not referee Kevin Friend had sounded his whistle prior to Aubameyang chipping the ball over David de Gea in the United goal.
Referee Friend was involved in a similar controversy earlier this season when he blew for simulation against Jack Grealish just moments before Henri Lansbury scored what would have been a late equaliser for Aston Villa at Crystal Palace. VAR was not consulted over Friend’s decision against Grealish because the whistle had already been blown.
Former referee : “Did the referee blow the whistle before Lansbury hit the ball? He did, there’s no doubt. So there’s no way the goal could be given. If the whistle hadn’t gone, VAR would’ve checked whether the goal was legal.”
But while it was not immediately clear if Friend had blown before Aubameyang scored, the player told Sky Sports: “I made sure I was not offside and I was surprised that the referee blew his whistle, but I just finished as usual.
“I always try to score even if I hear the whistle.”
It is a strange perspective, but Aubameyang’s remarks actually amount to an admission of wrongdoing. Ten years ago, Robin van Persie was dismissed in a Champions League tie for Arsenal against Barcelona after shooting at goal following a contentious offside call – although the player subsequently said he did not hear the referee’s whistle in the cauldron of the Nou Camp.
The view of the pundits
Jamie Carragher: “You saw the whistle going towards his mouth, that’s something Ole was complaining about at the side of the pitch. I’m not sure he’s in a great position to see that on the halfway line.
“VAR has been a massive debate all season, but that was VAR at its best tonight – that’s why it’s been brought in.”
Roy Keane: “You’re told as a kid, play to the whistle. You’d be critical of the United back four. Every player’s in the wrong position, okay there’s a mistake but it’s compounded, and credit to Arsenal, a lovely touch and a lovely finish.”