Clattenburg content with his decision to 'play advantage'

Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Football

The referee Mark Clattenburg will stick by his controversial decision to let Luis Nani's goal stand against Tottenham Hotspur, justified by the fact that he saw the Manchester United winger handle the ball and played advantage.

Clattenburg has come under fire from Harry Redknapp, who said that the referee had "made a real cock-up" in the aftermath of Spurs' 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford and would "make up a story" to get out of it. But Clattenburg has told friends that he is happy with the decision and the only reason that he did not appear on television to explain it is because match officials are discouraged from doing so by the referees' organisation, Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).

There was strong criticism of Clattenburg by members of the Spurs coaching staff and some pushing and shoving in the Old Trafford tunnel after the game, although no further action will be taken. It is expected that PGMOL will ask retired referees Alan Wiley and Steve Bennett to defend and explain Clattenburg's decision over the next few days.

They will also address the late flag after the goal by assistant Simon Beck that came in for criticism on Match of the Day on Saturday night. Gary Lineker suggested that Beck was flagging late in order to cover himself. However, Beck held the flag up straight without "agitating", which indicated that he needed to talk to the referee. He was not flagging for the original handball. There is frustration in the refereeing fraternity that even the BBC's top pundits do not know basic rules of the game.

Clattenburg has said in private that he saw the Nani handball but because goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had the ball in his hand he played advantage. Spurs were one goal down with six minutes to play and Clattenburg decided they would be best served by being able to clear the ball upfield. Given that Gomes had the ball in his hands, the linesman was not obliged to flag for the Nani handball.

Even before Gomes put the ball down, the game was live and Nani was in his rights to score. If there was one criticism that Clattenburg has admitted he accepts, it was that he should have been more demonstrative about telling Gomes and the Spurs players he was playing advantage.

In the immediate aftermath of the goal, Beck raised his flag to call Clattenburg over. He asked the referee whether he had seen the handball. Clattenburg replied that he had and that he had played advantage. As a result the goal was allowed to stand.

Redknapp was unrepentant after the game over his hard-hitting criticism of Clattenburg – chiefly for what he saw as the referee's failure to make it clear that the advantage was being played. "He made a real cock-up, there's no doubt," Redknapp said. "Whatever he says, he can come out and say what he wants, but he should have made the situation clearer.

"If he's not given the free-kick he should be going to the goalkeeper, 'Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up'. I think he should have made it clearer to the keeper because I'm sure everybody stopped and saw the handball and thought he'd given the handball. Yeah, we all say [play to the whistle] from when you're kids but he just thought it was a blatant handball, everybody saw it and he's got to give the handball decision.

"I'm not standing here saying we'd have won the game but it's just a shame that it ended in such a farcical manner really, it was a nonsense."

Redknapp sought to play down the expectations around tomorrow's home Champions League group game against Internazionale. "The problem is I have probably got five of our very, very best players missing. The goalkeeper [Gomes] is out suspended, my two centre-halves [Ledley King and Michael Dawson] are out, [Rafael] Van der Vaart and [Jermain] Defoe.

"Key players right down the middle of your team so it is going to be very difficult, but with the crowd behind us we'll give it a real go."

Man of the match Nani. Match rating 6/10.

Possession Man United 48% Tottenham 52%.

Shots on target Man United 10 Tottenham 5.

Referee M Clattenburg (Co Durham). Att 75,223.