Man Utd vs Wolves VAR Controversy: Referees Benched After Crucial Penalty Decision

In a highly anticipated clash between Manchester United and Wolves, referee Simon Hooper, along with video assistant ref Michael Sailsbury and assistant VAR Richard West, found themselves at the center of a storm after a contentious penalty decision. This controversial incident has led to their omission from the upcoming Premier League fixtures.

Despite emerging victorious with a 1-0 scoreline, thanks to Raphael Varane’s second-half goal, Manchester United were involved in a last-minute drama. Andre Onana, making his Premier League debut, collided with Sasa Kalajdzic and Craig Dawson in injury time. Replays showed that Onana had completely missed the ball, resulting in contact with the two Wolves players.

To the astonishment of the Wolves boss Gary O’Neil, referee Simon Hooper dismissed the on-field protests without hesitation. A lengthy VAR check followed, raising hopes for a possible penalty decision. However, instead of referring to the pitchside monitor, Hooper’s initial verdict was upheld.

In the immediate aftermath of the match, Gary O’Neil revealed that Jon Moss, manager of the Premier League’s elite group of officials, acknowledged the error. O’Neil stated, “We have just spoken to Jon Moss, and fair play to him for coming straight out and apologizing and saying it was a blatant penalty and should have been given.”

Following this admission by the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited), all three officials involved in the controversial incident have been excluded from the list of appointed referees for the upcoming weekend’s top-flight fixtures. Interestingly, this is not the first time Michael Sailsbury has faced such consequences; he was previously dropped in April due to errors during Brighton’s clash with Tottenham.

Erik ten Hag, the opposing coach, unsurprisingly showed support for the decision, as his team secured an advantageous opening-day win. Ten Hag remarked, “It is about the referee and VAR. I think the two players from Wolves, they came together, and Andre didn’t interfere. The action from both of them, first was the touch on the ball, I think from Dawson, and then came Andre.”

Dermot Gallagher, a former Premier League referee, criticized the decision, insisting that Hooper should have made the call on the field based on the clear evidence. In his analysis, Gallagher stated, “When you look at the images, I feel the referee on the field should get it. Onana crashes into the player, and it just has to be given as a penalty. It’s got to be a foul.”

He also expressed his opinion on the role of VAR, saying, “I think the VAR should have overturned it. But I wonder if referees are being told there’s a higher threshold, and nobody really knows where that threshold is because one person’s tolerance level is slightly different from somebody else’s. I think the VAR Michael Salisbury has pushed it to the absolute limit. It should be a penalty on the field without a doubt, and I thought the VAR should have intervened.”

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