Issue The Dutch score but they are no masters

As told by Michael Wood

The technical debate – the reasons why a decision has been given or not – I love. I got my teeth into Aaron Wilbraham’s almost goal against City at the end of the season loved the debate between fans. The reasons why. The knowing the rules. The knowing football.

So when The Dutch squared a ball to Ruud van Nistelrooy who stabbed in I though offside. My attention was drawn to a player on the floor behind the goal, the replay showed that he would technically still be involved in play – according to rule 14, got to love rule 14 – and thus the goal should stand.

A remarkable bit of refereeing. The correct decision. Justice is done.

Yet something does not ring true and for a while I change the Blue shirts to Claret and Amber in my head and try empathy and it comes to me. Last season City were forced to defend with a man down in our own six yard box – technically the Referee should have stopped the game because playing on was dangerous – and that player played all onside.

I recall at the time talking of the technicalities of the decision that should have been but was not made then and were I Italian I’d no doubt be speaking of the same today. Of course Rudd van Nistelrooy – the master of offside – is allowed to stab the ball home and is rendered onside by a prone Christian Panucci but should he have?

Morality has little sway in football but using an injured player to gain an advantage – while legal – is hardly fair and certainly not laudable. Van Nistelrooy is technically right but wrong in so many other senses.

The pain of football is that were Ruud to ignore the chance he is equally likely to have seen his team suffer from similar. Least we forget that the Italian team that claims the crown as World Champions represents a League and an FA which allows AC Milan to represent it in the Champions League the season after they have found them guilty of match fixing and hands out punishments to Juventus that would hardly prevent a repetition of the systematic and persisting cheating of the Old Lady of Turin.

The woe of football is that rules have to be constructed around the idea that cheating them will become inevitable and that no one expects fair play. Should Ruud pass that goal up because Pannuci is injured? Pannuci played on.

The tragedy of football is that we expect so little from it.