Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo will be free to face West Brom tomorrow evening after escaping retrospective punishment from the Football Association for incidents in Manchester United’s 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.
Referee Craig Pawson gave Rojo a yellow card for his two-footed lunge at Wilfried Zaha during the first half at Selhurst Park. Many observers considered that to be too lenient for such a dangerous tackle, particularly as it came 10 days after a similar challenge on Everton’s Idrissa Gueye — but the FA cannot increase the punishment for offences that have been seen and dealt with by the match officials.
Ibrahimovic’s apparent elbow to the face of Yohan Cabaye, however, could have been sanctioned by the FA, as it was not seen at the time. As is standard in these cases, footage of the second-half incident was sent to three former elite referees who reviewed it independently of each other.
For the FA to take action, the referees must be unanimous on the need for a retrospective red card and in this case they did not agree.
The governing body yesterday published its reasons for giving United manager Jose Mourinho a one-match touchline ban for kicking a bottle of water in anger during a game against West Ham last month.
The ban, which Mourinho has already served, was dished out because a three-man disciplinary commission decided he could have “endangered people around him”.
The commission’s report revealed the Portuguese made a “sincere apology for his actions” and said he is “striving to improve his disciplinary record”.
As well as being forced to watch a game from the stands, Mourinho was fined £16,000 (€19,000).
Meanwhile, Ander Herrera praised the number of game-changers in the United ranks after Ibrahimovic’s late winner downed Palace.
Having been pegged back to draw 1-1 in three of their previous four Premier League outings going into the Selhurst Park clash, Mourinho’s side appeared to be heading towards a similar result before Ibrahimovic struck with two minutes remaining with his sixth goal in as many games to wrap up a vital 2-1 win, after Paul Pogba’s controversial opener had been cancelled out by James McArthur.
Pogba scored despite being in an offside position as he latched onto Ibrahimovic’s knock-down, which appeared to come off the arm of the Swedish striker.
The same pair then combined for United’s dramatic winner as Pogba’s slide-rule pass was finished with aplomb by Ibrahimovic.
Asked about their impact, Herrera was keen to praise more than just the two summer arrivals. “When you have top players, they can do that (win a game),” he said.
“They don’t need to play their best game to change it. That is where we have Paul, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Ibrahimovic, top players who can change the game even when they are not playing their best.”
United remain unbeaten in the league since they were hammered 4-0 at Chelsea on October 23 and face West Brom, Sunderland, and Middlesbrough over the festive period.
West Brom and Watford were both fined £45,000 by the FA yesterday after admitting a misconduct charge. The clubs were disciplined for failing “to ensure their players and/or officials conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour”.
The incident occurred in the 84th minute of their Premier League meeting on December 3, when Watford’s Roberto Pereyra reacted angrily to a challenge by West Brom’s Irish winger James McClean, leading to a melee that brought both managers onto the pitch. Pereyra was sent off, although he subsequently had his ban reduced from three games to one game.
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