Retired referee Howard Webb is apparently the most well known and accomplished referees in European football after Italian legend Pierluigi Collina, but the Englishman has never been far from controversial decisions.
The 44-year-old former police officer has officiated some of the highest profile matches in recent times, most noticeably the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and Holland where there was an astonishing 14 yellow cards handed out and one red card.
Howard Webb was widely criticised for his apparent failure to control the game especially after Netherlands midfielder Nigel de Jong’s dangerous high tackle on Xabi Alonso’s chest only resulted in a yellow card for the midfielder.
But Webb believes it is not that this match that rankles him in what was a great career, but a decision he made in a title-defining match in 2008/09 between Manchester United and Tottenham, as reported by GiveMeSport.
Spurs had been leading 2-0 at half-time thanks to goals from Darren Bent and Luka Modric and a loss for the Red Devils would have handed the initiative to their title challengers, Liverpool.
But Howard Webb awarded a controversial penalty for the home side at Old Trafford after goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was adjudged to have brought down Michael Carrick illegally when the midfielder knocked the ball past the Brazilian.
Cristiano Ronaldo took the penalty to make it 2-1 and then United took their level up a notch and Tottenham crumbled under the pressure with the match finishing 5-2.
The win instilled United’s belief and they duly went on to secure the title by four points over Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool with Webb still feeling regret over the decision.
He said: “The one that’s talked about most is the [Nigel] De Jong tackle [on Xabi Alonso in the 2010 World Cup final], which should have been a red card,” he replied. “But that’s only because it was such a high-profile situation – that’s not the biggest mistake.
“The one I really was annoyed about most of all was Man Utd v Tottenham at Old Trafford (pictured). It was April 2009 – I’d just been appointed to do the FA Cup final; I was on a high.
“Tottenham were winning 2-0 early in the second half; lovely ball by Wayne Rooney played towards Michael Carrick. Gomes, the goalkeeper, came out… Carrick got a touch on the ball and was wiped out by Gomes. That’s the way it looked to me.
“Actually, Carrick got a touch of the ball, but Gomes got a big hand on the ball as well – good tackle by Gomes. I’d misread it, gave the penalty, and United went on to win 5-2 from 2-0 down. It was a match changer, that’s why it hurt. And it had an impact on the league title, too.”