Former referee Howard Webb has admitted that he wanted to see Manchester United‘s Cristiano Ronaldo miss a penalty during their home game against Tottenham Hotspur in 2009 after he realised he made the wrong decision.
According to Daily Mail, Webb, who was a highly-regarded official and took charge of more than 500 Premier League and Football League matches, was accused by rival supporters of being a secret Manchester United fan due to some of his decisions involving the Premier League giants.
His decision to award Michael Carrick a penalty in 2009 for what was a fair challenge by Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes has proved to be one of his biggest career regrets.
He told The Athletic: ‘The one that stands out is one where in the game I knew I got it wrong.
‘It was a Premier League game at Old Trafford — Manchester United versus Tottenham Hotspur in 2009.’
United were 2-0 down until Wayne Rooney played Michael Carrick a penetrative pass that saw him sidestep goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes before going to ground.
Webb gave a penalty but now criticises his decision, saying: ‘I could see Carrick got there first and then the goalkeeper clattered into him. It was really an easy penalty award.
‘I was expecting the usual cursory appeal that you get from the players, not the huge look of absolute astonishment and amazement and incredulousness on the look of Gomes.’
Webb says it was obvious he made the wrong decision as Gomes got his hand on the ball to push out of the path of Carrick before the midfielder took a tumble.
He said: ‘It was obvious within seconds I’d got the decision wrong. There was something more to this.
‘I was left with the decision I had taken with no independent evidence that I’d got it wrong other than a gut feeling, and I was just hoping that Ronaldo would miss the penalty. But he didn’t.’
Ronaldo stepped up to the penalty spot and scored, sending the ball straight down the middle to make the score 2-1, before United then went on to win the clash 5-2 at Old Trafford.
Webb, meanwhile, went on to officiate two World Cups, two European Championships and the Champions League.
But that did not stop English fans questioning his integrity throughout his career.
Rival fans constantly called into question Webb’s professionalism and Liverpool’s Ryan Babel was even fined £10,000 for linking to a picture of him mocked up in a United shirt on Twitter following their FA Cup defeat in 2011.
When previously questioned on his supposed preference towards United, Webb said: ‘There’s no element of truth in it.
‘It’s not something that affected me or played on my mind at all. It wasn’t hurtful. Much of it is tongue-in-cheek, of course.
‘What does play on my mind is when I’ve made a mistake, particularly an influential one that has affected the outcome of a game. I’d be dishonest if I said it didn’t bother me.’
Speaking of how he felt after the controversial penalty decision in 2009, said his reaction was: ‘Just “Oh s***”, really.
‘You just know. You can tell as a ref. You can see the momentum shift. You can see the way the game is going.
‘At 2-1, you never know. At 2-2, you can see the way this game is going.
‘When [the camera] misses all those players and runs up to you [at full-time], as a ref, it’s not a good feeling.
‘You just know you have a world of pain coming your way.’
After the game, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp made it clear he felt frustrated by Webb’s mistake, saying: ‘It was a gift which wasn’t deserved. It was a terrible decision.
‘Howard is supposed to be our best ref, but if he’s the best I’d hate to see the worst.’
While Sir Alex Ferguson said his team’s first goal was ‘a bit fortunate’.