Before kick-off, ITV gave us a montage of high beam gymnastics.
A finely balanced tie, you see.
By the end, Adrian Chiles couldn’t have been more apoplectic if the Turkish referee had run amok and torched the entire gymnasium. But still he found a high horse to climb on.
“There’s got to be something amiss when you have some of the world’s richest footballers on the pitch but the referee is the centre of attention at the end. Mr Cakir, do take a bow.”
A punditry straw poll backed Chiles.
Shay Given on TV3: “As a neutral that’s never a red card in a month of Sundays.” Brian Kerr wanted character profiling introduced rather than video evidence. “Not a good call. Nani is not a fella that goes around taking the loaf off people. At this level, the referees know the bold boys.”
Kevin Kilbane: “It’s not a red card. Arbeloa’s just too quick for him and that’s all it is.”
Gareth Southgate: “Very harsh.” Lee Dixon: “I think there’s enough ambiguity to give him a yellow.”
We’re not sure what Lawro made of it. “No, no, no, no, no, never.”
But we had to wait for Roy.
“I actually think he made the right call. Anytime I was sent off in my career, I thought to myself; did I give the referee a chance to send me off? If I thought, yeah, then the referee was usually right.”
As Chiles and his opinions visibly shrank into his seat, Gareth Southgate made a last, brave attempt to state the popular case. “His eyes are only on the ball. I don’t think he sees Arbeloa.”
It cut little ice with Roy. “Does he not think there are other footballers on the pitch? United fans can argue all day. It was dangerous play.”
Nor was Roy too impressed with Jose’s ongoing attempts to be Fergie’s best friend forever. “The best team lost. We didn’t play well. We didn’t deserve,” was the act Mourinho chose last night.
“I think he’s being humble and I don’t think it suits him,” ruled Keano. “Credit to Madrid for taking advantage of the decision.”
The other big decision had come earlier in the night. Where to go for commentary?
Like Liam Brady in his brief, final outing under Jack, Andy Townsend was given 20 minutes to play himself out of the job. In that time, we saw him hobble precariously out on a limb. “Ronaldo — I think he’s a top, top player, Clive.”
For a time, there was a humble acceptance of his human limitations. “The great thing about this game is, we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”
But that couldn’t last. Soon Andy would treat us to a hunch. “If Real score, United will probably need to win this game to progress.”
If you were the kind to take any pleasure in the misfortunes of United, you surely haven’t considered Trevor and how his heart might break.
On ordinary nights, he can muster the strength to deal with Lawro’s incessant banter. Not on evenings like this; when the nerves jangle, every quip is hurriedly given the straight bat with the nearest fact to hand.
“I’m sorry Trevor, look at the goalkeeper, he looks like a bumble bee.” “They bought him from Seville of course — four million.”
Long before the end, Trevor had resort to yelling “Has that come off an arm?” every time the ball presented itself near the Madrid goal.
It proved futile and as Jose took to the tunnel just before the end, another dream disappeared too.
“The treble is gone,” said Trevor sadly. You wonder just how sad Roy was about that outcome.
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