In a dramatic sequence of events that seemed initially favorable for Manchester United, an early breakthrough was quickly overshadowed by controversy. Scott McTominay’s strike, set up by an Alejandro Garnacho cross just eight minutes into the game against Fulham, was disallowed, casting a shadow over Erik ten Hag’s squad. The ‘subjective offside’ ruling, as commentator Darren Fletcher on TNT Sports described it, left the United camp in disbelief.
This moment of confusion was the result of a VAR decision that ruled Harry Maguire offside, not McTominay or Garnacho. Maguire was adjudged to be interfering with play despite being nowhere near the ball, a decision made only after referee John Brookes conducted a VAR review, an incident that’s considered a rarity in offside rulings.
Despite overcoming this hurdle and securing a 1-0 win over Fulham, the frustrations with VAR were far from over for Manchester United. The team has faced multiple instances where VAR rulings have had a detrimental impact on their season. As indicated by a striking statistic, United have experienced a net loss of five goals due to VAR – the most significant negative impact on any Premier League team this season.
An illustrative chart, circulating among fans, posted by @AliceTalksFooty conveys this impact in stark terms. It shows United at the bottom with a -5 goal difference directly attributed to VAR, while other teams have seen a net positive or no impact at all. This disparity has not only been a source of frustration but has also fueled debates over the consistency and accuracy of VAR.
The consequences of these decisions have been tangible. In the case of Manchester United, the reversal of fortunes due to VAR could arguably have been the difference between their current standing and a spot in the top four.
Erik ten Hag is expected to confront these issues in his upcoming press conference, following the lead of other Premier League managers who have not shied away from criticizing VAR. After Arsenal’s defeat, Mikel Arteta described a VAR decision as ’embarrassing,’ and ten Hag may also voice his concerns about the seemingly arbitrary nature of these calls.
As Manchester United navigates through the remainder of the season, the call for VAR consistency grows louder. With the visual representation of their VAR-induced goal deficit making the rounds, the message is clear: United’s campaign has been uniquely hindered by the technology, and the club, along with its manager ten Hag, is seeking to address what they deem to have been a series of unjust decisions.