British newspapers were unanimous yesterday to slam Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır, who was seen as the reason Manchester United lost 2-1 at home in its Champions League tie against Real Madrid after Nani was sent off for catching Alvaro Arbeloa in the chest. The Daily Telegraph headlined its coverage “Cheated”, focusing on Çakır’s decision to send off Nani when most observers had expected a yellow card at worst. “This was a good game ruined by a bad referee,” wrote the Telegraph, saying it was a “terrible decision.” Daily Mail, meanwhile, noted that “the the 36-year-old has not refereed a single game without booking someone all year,” recalling the six yellow cards Çakır showed in the Spor Toto Super League game between Akhisar Municipality and Elazığspor March 2. The paper also found it worthy to note that Çakır “follows both Real Madrid and star player Cristiano Ronaldo on Twitter.” The Times said the sending-off had seemed “extremely harsh” because it came after United had taken a 1-0 lead and a 2-1 lead overall in the tie.
“For a time, this had seemed to be shaping into one of Ferguson’s great triumphs, but it ended up as an addition to a litany of Champions League hard-luck stories -- Borussia Dortmund in 1997, Bayer Leverkusen in 2002, Porto in 2004 and Bayern Munich in 2010 -- and this one seemed to bring a genuine cause for grievance.”
Under a photograph of Ferguson jabbing an angry finger in the referee’s direction, The Sun’s headline was “Broken - Fergie distraught after Nani red card KO’s Utd.”
All the papers highlighted that Ferguson had been too incensed by the decision to speak to reporters afterwards.
Assistant manager Mike Phelan instead issued the only public reaction to a night that marked Ryan Giggs’ 1000th professional match.
Phelan said Giggs’ landmark match and a “great performance was marred by one decision” by the referee.