Ref Watch: Martin Atkinson – Manchester United vs West Ham
Author: SamTWHWRef. Published: 13 August 2017 at 7:51pm
Written by @SamRoyden
With what seemed like an eternity, the Premier League has resumed with a bang and it’s great to be back writing for TheWestHamWay. As I sat in a little bar called Helders in Carvoeiro, Portugal, taking a break from my vacation and the 26 degree heat, I had a sense of optimism which was quickly brought back down to earth when my girlfriend’s brother hit me which some damaging stats. Jose Mourinho has never lost a game at home on a Sunday as a manager and West Ham haven’t won their last opening 10 games, the bubble truly burst after hearing that
There was a lot of drama in the opening fixtures of the new season with unexpected wins, a lot of goals and three red cards: two cautionable offences included dissent by action or word, violent conduct and a dangerous challenge by use of excessive force – The debate on these red cards could go on through the night. Martin Atkinson was the referee named for the last fixture of Gameweek one and in my opinion, one of the most consistent referees over the past two or three seasons.
Martin Atkinson started the game well with good decisive decision-making and on top of the challenges flying in, both teams seemed rusty with their timing and tackling.
In the first half, Manchester United had a couple of half-hearted penalty appeals when goalscorer Romeu Lukaku went down within the 6 yard box. There was no contact by West Ham defender’s as Lukaku reached his outstretched left leg to make contact with the ricocheting ball inside the penalty area. Paul Pobga found himself becoming frustrated after Atkinson waved away his penalty appeals on two occasions. From the Manchester United corner, Angelo Ogbonna was tightly marking the French international and went down under minimal pressure. In my opinion, Pogba went down too easily but players have to be careful with pulling and pushing in the penalty area as referees started to crack down on these fouls last season. The other was for a challenge with the West Ham player fairly won the ball.
Atkinson managed the game well and allowed the game to flow and found himself being lenient on occasions especially with Nemanja Matic. On more than one occasion, Matic was late with his challenges, which could have been deemed as yellow card offences. On both of these occasions, Atkinson chose not to punish the Manchester United defending midfielder but Atkinson will have kept tabs on his challenges
The only caution of the first half was for Manchester United centre back Eric Bailly. The strong central defender caught West Ham’s new number 17 Javier Hernandez high on the shin/knee with a clumsy challenge when Hernandez was on the half turn – even though the attempt was genuine, Bailly should have no complaints especially when you catch a player late and high on the leg, even if it’s accidental.
In the second half, the only performance that depleted was West Ham’s. Manchester United performance was very strong on the attack with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford and Romeu Lukaku leading in a front three. If i’m being honest with you, the second half for Martin Atkinson was as routine as you could get. Atkinson continued to control the game and the cautions he produced were obvious and stonewall cautionable offences.
Pablo Zabaleta showed why Manchester City rated him so highly. Even though on this debut game, four goals have been chalked against his name, the Argentine showed his experience throughout bellowing orders and managing the defensive line. However, his experience resulted in a caution for his block on Marcus Rashford. The young Englishman was looking to run down Zabaleta’s weak side before being blocked. A simple booking and one that cannot be argued.
Marko Arnautović looked promising throughout but understandably needs some time to settle into the new team. Arnautović was on the receiving end of a poor challenge by Antonio Valencia after some good hold up play from the ex-Stoke man. Valencia was late to react and caught Arnautović on the top of his planted ankle – Nothing less than a sore one for the Austrian and Atkinson cautioned Valencia for his attempt.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked very lively all game and with two assists against his name had his chances to get on the score sheet however it was disallowed for offside. West Ham’s defence was left in no mans land and Rashford darting past the defence-splitting passes from midfield, only to be 2 yards offside when Mkhitaryan slotted the ball home from close range. A great decision by the linesman, in which both performed well throughout.
Overall, Martin Atkinson and his officiating team had a good game which seemed very routine and without controversy. With the new technology like VAR potentially coming into the Premier League next season, this will only help ease pressure on referees with the speed and the intensity of the game ever-increasing.
In the first game of the season, naturally your going to have some rust within the squad but exceptions have been set and being thumped 4-0 at Manchester United was not one of them. It is evident that a lot of work still needs to be done and what an opportunity against a Southampton team who struggled for goals last season and have problems of their own. Ex has confirmed that William Carvalho is flying in next week for talks and hopefully to secure a deal – a player of his calibre will be one of the best pieces of business this transfer window if deal gets over the line.