Juan Mata has expressed his disappointment at the confusion caused by video assistant referee technology during Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup last weekend.
The Spaniard latched onto Ashley Young‘s inside pass and rounded keeper Jonas Lössl to put the visitors 2-0 up on the stroke of half time, only for referee Kevin Friend to refer the decision to Neil Swarbrick, who after some considerable time declared the goal to be offside.
Confusion was sparked by images released showing a series of wonky lines, which didn’t shed any further light on the incident, supposedly used to make the decision.
And Mata, writing in his weekly blog, noted that he was disappointed to celebrate scoring and then have his goal ruled out but did insist that he supported the technology’s implementation.
“A lot has been said about the goal that I scored and was disallowed by the VAR,” he said.
“It was my first time, a new experience for me (and for almost all of us, actually). The truth is, once you have celebrated the goal you are surprised and disappointed (as you could see on my face), but this time, luckily, that goal was not needed to win…
“As I said in a few interviews after the game, even if this time it didn’t play in our favour, I think in the future the VAR will be helpful for the referees, who always have a difficult job, and eventually it will bring more justice to football…
“Given that an unfair call or a wrong one might have significant consequences (sending a team to relegation, having a manager sacked, etc.), I understand that we must try to make the final result as fair as possible, and that’s where I think that a proper use of the VAR can be really helpful.
“Technology can help football to be more fair, especially nowadays when it seems that the result is the only thing that matters (we could write a whole book on this subject :-)).
“I believe, though, that such technology should be restricted to a few particular actions that are crucial in the game (in order to avoid too many interruptions), and especially that the final decision should take less time and be more clear than last Saturday’s…”
Hawk-Eye, the organisation responsible for the technology, have since released an apology for the incorrect images and insisted they did have accurate lines available to them as a basis for making the decision, which showed Mata’s kneecap to be slightly offside.
“A technical issue led to an incorrect graphic being provided by Hawk-Eye to BT Sport last night,” the statement read.
“To confirm, the VAR saw the correct image with the correct lines to make the decision. This was a case of the wrong image being provided to the broadcaster and we apologise.”
VAR will, one day, happen quite seamlessly and guarantee a measure of accuracy in referee decisions not seen beforehand, but in its nascent stages chaos continues to ensue.
For a technology still under trial and very much novel to the footballing audience, perception is everything. And as a result VAR, more than ever, has to be understood as trouble free and beneficial by those being exposed to it for the first time.
But Saturday’s events – not the decision necessarily, which was technically right – unfolded in a way that only raised suspicion, serving as a reminder to those in charge that much more needs to be done.