Manchester United struggled to keep up with Watford and Watford ended up winning 3-1. At around the 30 minute mark, Anthony Martial clashed heads going for a ball and went down. Despite going through some concussion tests, Manchester United kept Martial in and minutes later, gave up possession to Miguel Britos and led to Etienne Capoue scoring the first of Watford’s three goals. Once that happened, Martial went down and then he was subbed out, holding his head as he was walking off the pitch.
Manchester United was holding on and they have at times escaped to win in matches that they didn’t necessarily deserve to win. But leaving in Martial was the turning point of the match and while United equalized, still couldn’t fully catch up from that. It’s unknown whether or not Manchester United actually felt Martial was okay to keep going or they took a risk and kept him in because they couldn’t risk making a sub after 30 minutes but regardless of how the decision was made, that determined the match.
Now I know hindsight is 20/20 so it’s way easier to point this out after the fact. Yeah, at the time, it may not be that cut and dry to make that kind of decision if Martial has a concussion or not. But really think about it. If you have 11 players out on the pitch and you have a player out there who is at best, should be undergoing more tests for a concusssion, that you’re better off just playing down a man for five to ten minutes until you’re sure he can either play or be subbed out instead of leaving him in and not knowing where he is, easily give up the ball and allow a goal. Not to mention, opening up the possibility of getting an even more serious head injury to compound what he already had.
Now there was some discussion on whether Martial was fouled and thus the goal would’ve never happened. Yes, the play was physical but that doesn’t necessarily warrant a foul. At the very least it’s debatable. It’s a play that really isn’t 100% clear cut that it’s a foul or it isn’t. Looking at the play itself, referee Michael Oliver is running the other way, expecting United to attack. So while he can see the play, he’s about 20 yards away so I’m not shocked that he wouldn’t call it. The linesman had a clear look and was closer to the play than Oliver was. He can call a foul if he wanted or tell Oliver what he just saw but erred on the side of caution and let play continue.
Seeing the play live, it was one of those calls where I would’ve had no problem if it was called as a foul or not. If I was a referee, I wouldn’t have called it because I would probably have seen Britos make contact with the ball and come in from the side rather than from behind. If I only had one look, and not multiple replays from various angles, I couldn’t call that. But at the same time, I wouldn’t have had a problem if a foul was called.
So, one decision compounded into something else and now we’re all asking ourselves all these questions about Manchester United. What’s the problem with guys like Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney, Jose Mourinho, etc.? Really I could go down the list and ask that about most players. But if Manchester United had taken Martial out once they saw that he may have suffered a concussion, yeah it’s not ideal to be taking Martial out unless he’s clearly knocked out but sometimes you have to do what you have to do and taking out Martial when they had a good chance to save further issues with the team.