While plenty around Manchester United has been crumbling – including Old Trafford – Scott McTominay has emerged as an unlikely pillar of optimism.
The rejuvenated Scottish midfielder powered by nostalgia scored three goals across his previous trio of appearances for United prior to Saturday’s lunchtime trip to Fulham.
Within eight minutes of kick-off, McTominay stole in at the back post to fire United ahead. While the red shirts flocked around their surprise saviour by the corner flag, referee John Brooks was in conversation with VAR Jarred Gillett.
After a pitch-side review, McTominay’s ‘goal’ was chalked off – much to the amusement and bemusement of the respective home and away fans. Here’s why McTominay had his Premier League goal tally knocked back down to three (which was still a team-high).
Why was Scott McTominay’s goal for Man Utd ruled out against Fulham?
Christian Eriksen managed to convince Bruno Fernandes to let him take United’s eighth-minute free kick, swinging the ball to the back of the box where Alejandro Garnacho was lurking. United’s exciting Argentine – starting in place of the absent Marcus Rashford – squared a first-time half-volley across the area for McTominay to crash onto.
Both Garnacho and McTominay were onside but Harry Maguire had strayed beyond the deepest Fulham defender. Maguire did not touch the ball but he did run across the path of the retreating Rodrigo Muniz.
Law 11 in the FA handbook judges an offside player to become involved in active play by “interfering with an opponent”. This can take the form of “clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent” or “making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”.
Maguire was factually offside but his involvement is a subjective decision – hence VAR’s request for the referee to take another look. Brooks ultimately agreed with Gillett that Maguire had impeded the opposition.
Reaction to Scott McTominay’s disallowed goal for Man Utd against Fulham
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag dropped his characteristic steely stare for a flap of his arms, exacerbated by what he perceived to be a mounting pile of decisions going against his team. In the wake of the controversial VAR call, the Dutch coach told the fourth officials: “So many times now.”
Fans on social media were quick to point out that Fulham had conceded a similar goal against United’s neighbours Manchester City earlier this season. Nathan Ake’s header was allowed to stand even though Manuel Akanji was far more obviously interfering with play than Maguire. Referee chief Howard Webb accepted that the decision from September was an “error”.
It is likely that he will be much more satisfied with the refereeing on Saturday – although not everybody was.