Arsenal drew 2-2 against Manchester United on Wednesday evening at Old Trafford in the 15th round of this season’s Premier League roller coaster, adding game number 20 to their truly impressive unbeaten run. The Gunners led twice, but the home team managed to pull level both times. Shkodran Mustafi gave Arsenal the lead in the 26th minute only to have to cancelled out by Anthony Martial just four minutes later, and the hope for victory briefly reignited by Alexandre Lacazette in the 68th minute was dashed by Jesse Lingard after 60 seconds.
However, after the North-London Derby on Sunday, this was another match containing moments of controversy. Three minutes from time, United midfielder Marouane Fellaini stopped Matteo Guendouzi by sharply pulling his hair from behind. A foul was given and a free-kick for Arsenal awarded, but surprisingly enough, there was no further action taken against the Belgian. If anything, referee Andre Marriner actually did Fellaini a huge favour by doing so.
Why? The explanation is simple. The Football Association has the power to hand out retrospective punishments to players for unsporting behaviour, but only if the incident in question is completely missed by the officials. Basically, by giving the foul Marriner has shown that he had seen what had happened, and took what he thought to be an appropriate action, so the hands of the FA are tied as far as this matter is concerned.
To put it mildly, it was a ridiculous decision by the 47-year-old referee. Since his arrival to the Premier League, back in 2008 when he joined Everton, Fellaini has been doing this kind of thing with some consistency. In May 2016, he received a three-match ban together with Robert Huth with whom he had an altercation. It was his hair that had been pulled on that occasion, before he retaliated by swinging an elbow into the head of the Leicester City centre-back.
It is to be hoped a proper way of handling these situations will be established soon.