Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson claims it is “hard to keep your faith” in football after decisions like Nani’s red card on Tuesday – but referee Cuneyt Cakir still insists he made the right call.
Ferguson was so furious at Cakir’s decision to dismiss Nani for a high tackle on Alvaro Arbeloa that he opted not to attend the mandatory post-match press conference following his side’s 2-1 Champions League last 16 defeat to Real Madrid, a move that could incur a fine from UEFA.
It merely confirmed fears the United manager had about Cakir’s appointment prior to the game, with the Turkish official having a history of sending off players from English teams.
Ferguson can also look back to a disallowed Paul Scholes goal against Porto in 2004 and Rafael’s red card against Bayern Munich in 2010 for other examples of when refereeing decisions have gone against his side, and he admits that is quite dispiriting.
“It’s hard to keep your faith when you see what’s happened in the last few years,” said Ferguson.
“It’s the third time we’ve been knocked out by a referee’s decision and it’s not easy to take.
“I was concerned before the game. I said that to my staff. I had a big worry about it. But it’s gone now. We have to get on with it.”
Ferguson is unlikely to be impressed when he discovers Cakir has chosen to break his own silence on the matter to Spanish newspaper AS.
The United manager wondered whether there had been a Spanish influence over Cakir’s appointment for the Old Trafford encounter, given Spanish federation president Angel Villar and Turkish federation chief Senes Erzik are chairman and deputy chairman respectively of UEFA’s referee’s committee.
Cakir has defended his decision to dismiss Nani, even though most observers - including Real coach Jose Mourinho but with the notable exception of former United captain Roy Keane – felt he had got it badly wrong.
“I feel well and I don’t doubt my decisions,” Cakir told AS.
“The red card to Nani was correct. People will see that is the case in time.”
Cakir also brandished other high-profile red cards in matches involving English teams, dismissing John Terry in Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona last season, Mario Balotelli in a Europa League game against Dynamo Kiev and, earlier this season, Steven Gerrard during England’s World Cup draw with Ukraine and Gary Cahill in the Club World Cup defeat to Corinthians.
“In the previous games with the English teams there was no unfair decision,” said Cakir.
“What decision was incorrect? The red to Terry or Balotelli? I don’t think I made a mistake in showing those cards and sending them off.”
Regarding being at the centre of controversy this week, Cakir said: “It hasn’t made me feel sad. I don’t think about it.
“I’ve received more criticism on other occasions, but I’ve always got up and recovered. I can do it again.”