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Mark Clattenburg: I was gutted when I first saw replay of infamous Roy Carroll incident and realised I’d made a howler

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Roy Carroll claws the ball back over the goal-line against Tottenham at Old Trafford

Roy Carroll claws the ball back over the goal-line against Tottenham at Old Trafford

Roy Carroll in action during his Manchester United days

Roy Carroll in action during his Manchester United days

AFP via Getty Images

Referee Mark Clattenburg had only been a Premier League official for a matter of months when the infamous incident occured

Referee Mark Clattenburg had only been a Premier League official for a matter of months when the infamous incident occured

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Roy Carroll claws the ball back over the goal-line against Tottenham at Old Trafford

Top ref Mark Clattenburg has admitted he was “gutted” when he first saw the replay of the infamous incident when Roy Carroll clawed the ball away against Tottenham after it had clearly crossed the line — yet a goal wasn’t awarded.

The howler happened at Old Trafford almost 15 years before VAR and eight years before Hawk-Eye goal-line technology, when the Northern Ireland keeper was in nets for Manchester United.

Clattenburg, 46, winced: “It is little wonder my relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson started well, even if it was for entirely the wrong reasons from my perspective.

“It was in January 2005 that I took charge of my first Manchester United match, against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. I had been a Premier League referee for just five months.

“It was goalless entering the 89th minute when Pedro Mendes, the Spurs midfielder, scored a goal from the halfway line. The ball was at least a yard over the line before goalkeeper Roy Carroll scooped it back out.

“Except me and my linesman did not see it and did not award the goal. It was not our fault — I will revisit why I believe that to be the case — but it saved United a point and cost Spurs victory.

“Fergie certainly had no issue with me that day and he was always very pleasant when our paths crossed over the next couple of seasons.”

In his new book Whistle Blower, Clattenburg said he would inevitably fall foul of Sir Alex two years later and was also “convinced” that he schooled his stars on how to tackle officials.

He said: “Ferguson used to blame everyone, from the referee to the catering lady. It was a very deliberate ploy. It was about creating a siege mentality with his players, but also trying to influence future decisions by intimidating officials.

“His players would gang up on you in packs. It was like they had a rota system, always a different pair or three or four of them so they would avoid being sent off.

“Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, they would all have a little bite and get in your face. You had to be wise to their motivation for targeting you. They were not trying to change the decision that had just gone, they were trying to get inside your head ahead of the next one.

“Did it work? Not with me. There was no bias towards United from referees, as some supporters of opposition clubs claim. Yes, there was an aura around them, that was Manchester United.

“You had to be mentally strong going to Old Trafford because they would try everything to influence you. Fergie could turn the crowd against the referee just by jumping up and reacting to a decision on the touchline.

“It was intimidating, I have no shame in admitting that. I defy anyone in my position not to feel that pressure. It is being able to resist it that makes for a good referee.

“As a referee, you would go there not wanting to make a mistake, because it was always a high-profile match and usually on TV. So to go back to my first game at Old Trafford, United versus Spurs in 2005, it could not have gone any worse in that regard.”

Clattenburg said he twigged something might be up when he blew for full-time and immediately the Sky Sports steady-cam was in his face.

He said: “Oh s***, that’s never a good sign. Instinctively, it told me the Mendes effort was over the line. I had got to 89 minutes and was so close to getting out of there unscathed. Then, from nowhere, Mendes took this audacious shot from the halfway line. I was in the right position, close to the ball, but miles away from the goal. I expected Roy Carroll to catch it, everyone did.

“But he didn’t, he somehow managed to spill the ball towards the goal and dived to claw it back out. I did not have a clue if it was over the line.

“How could I? I was 50 yards away, I would be guessing. To award a goal, you have to be sure. This was impossible. My linesman was running to catch up with the ball and, like me, he had no way of being certain. With no goal-line technology, I could not award a goal.

“I waved play on and looked across to the touchline, where Spurs boss Martin Jol was manhandling Mark Halsey, the fourth official. Oh f***, this must be close.

“When I saw the replay after the game, I was absolutely gutted. The ball was well over the line. So much for getting through my first match at Old Trafford without any major incident, this was headline news. But I will always maintain that this mistake was not my fault, nor that of my linesman. It is one of the most infamous incorrect decisions in Premier League history, but I was powerless.

“The human eye did not stand a chance in such a freak circumstance and it highlighted the need for goal-line technology. At least it was a force for good in that regard. Not that Spurs fans see it that way. They are never shy of reminding me about the ‘Mendes goal’. They are right, of course, it was a goal.

“Of all the decisions in my career, I would go back and change this one above any other. I wish there was a way of me getting it right.”


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