Ex ref on United - Liverpool pen debates: FOUR penalties? Vidic unlucky & more

Old Trafford Interior

Dermot Gallagher backs referee Mark Clattenburg over penalty calls during Manchester United's 3-0 loss to Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Another chapter in the long-standing North-West footballing rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool was added over the weekend as the Sunday match-up at Old Trafford did not pass without incident.

A brace from influential captain Steven Gerrard, who could - and should - have returned a hat trick and a punctuating finisher from Luis Suarez not only highlighted the Anfield side's Premier League contender status, but served as a reminder of how the once mighty United have now fallen as the reigning champions failed to assert themselves and were dominated in front of their own fans.

While no team has won more penalty decisions at any away ground than Liverpool at Old Trafford - six - manager Brendan Rodgers could have witnessed even more awarded to his side as Marouane Fellaini clumsily collided with Suarez, only for the Uruguayan to remain on his feet.

Liverpool managed to get themselves ahead, on the run of play, on the 34th minute, when defender Rafael da Silva was adjudged to have committed his hand to the ball when in the area. In the Sky Sports News studio, former Premier League officiator Dermot Gallagher believes there could have been no arguments had the Brazilian been dismissed at that point, compounding United's struggles.

"If he sent him off there'd be no arguments [but Mark Clattenburg] may have thought that just a penalty would have been sufficient punishment for that deliberate handball."

As for the red card that did arrive, Nemanja Vidic's customary early bath against the Reds (four of his six red cards in Premier League action have arrived against Liverpool), Gallagher sympathises with United fans who feel the second yellow card was harsh yet understands why the decision was made due to the angle Clattenburg had of the incident.

Gallagher said: "The referee's angle on Vidic second yellow card is 100% penalty. It just looks a penalty. Vidic didn't, obviously. It's very, very, unlucky for the referee."

Gerrard missed the opportunity to net to return three from the spot having scored a second after Phil Jones fouled Joe Allen, but Gallagher states there perhaps should have been a fourth penalty: "There should have been a fourth penalty as Michael Carrick was guilty of a foul on Daniel Sturridge. What went on before would not have influenced the referee, but the way Sturridge went down may have."

As far as action at the other end of the pitch was concerned, Gallagher feels neither the alleged hand-ball by Glen Johnson (something David Moyes believes should have seen a penalty been awarded), not the Wayne Rooney incident warranted a decision.

Rooney collided with Martin Skrtel and Gallagher concluded: "Rooney throws himself into it. Skrtel does not move into his path, he's already there - he's not obliged to move."

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