Mark Hughes believes a large number of Premier League managers have "lost faith" with officials after a weekend dominated by high-profile mistakes from referees and their assistants.
Less than 24 hours after Wigan Athletic departed Stamford Bridge nursing a seething sense of injustice, Hughes left Old Trafford furious with the referee, Lee Mason, after Queens Park Rangers were forced to play with 10 men from the 14th minute after Shaun Derry was harshly sent off for a foul on Ashley Young.
Young was at least a yard offside when he received Wayne Rooney's pass in the area and, to rub salt into the visitors' wounds, there was minimal contact when Derry challenged the Manchester United winger, who tumbled to the floor theatrically. Mason, however, pointed to the spot and showed a red card – Rangers' seventh of the season – effectively ending the game as a serious contest before Rooney dispatched his penalty to put United on the path to a comfortable 2-0 victory.
On the back of the controversy at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea scored two offside goals against Wigan, Hughes claimed the standard of officiating was not good enough and accused referees and their assistants of "guessing and hoping" they get decisions right. It was a subject that came under the microscope again later in the day, when Manchester City's Mario Balotelli was fortunate not to be sent off for a reckless challenge on Arsenal's Alex Song in the first half, long before he was eventually dismissed.
Asked about the penalty incident at Old Trafford, Hughes replied: "We are desperately disappointed with the performance of the referee, not only on that occasion, the vast majority of the game. It just felt as though he was a little bit too quick to put the whistle to his mouth – I think [Young] was still rolling around and he'd already given the penalty. Probably his assistant [Ceri Richards] at that point didn't have the opportunity to put his flag up because the penalty had already been given. It's clear to everybody that the initial run was offside and we've seen the challenge is minimal contact. The boy has gone over too easily and the referee has bought it unfortunately. The key thing from my point of view is you have to be 100% right to give the decisions and at the moment I think people are guessing and hoping that they get decisions correct. I think that was the case today. You should have confidence that the referees are going to make the key decisions in the game and, just lately, I think a lot of managers have lost faith in them."
Although Richards should have flagged for offside before Derry's challenge, Young's unsavoury part in the incident should not be overlooked. He was booked for simulation while playing for England against Montenegro 18 months ago and Philip Beard, the QPR chief executive, suggested, with some justification, that the player was guilty of the same crime here. Beard tweeted: "Difficult to take after watching numerous replays but Ashley Young could partner Tom Daley at the Olympics."
Mason took some time before leaving the field at half-time and it was put to Hughes that the referee seemed to be scared to come off. "That's because he saw me waiting for him, I think," said Hughes, who confirmed QPR would appeal against Derry's dismissal. "Listen, it's difficult. I'm not here to castigate the referee. All we want is referees and officials to get the big decisions right and unfortunately this weekend they haven't covered themselves in glory. I know Roberto Martínez has commented on the performance of the officials at his game and I here sat before you doing exactly the same. And these are massive decisions affecting people's livelihoods.
"I think the [decisions] this weekend are certainly down to the competence of the referee and his performance level. They don't mean [to get it wrong] but surely the level needs to be higher than it is at the moment. They are a professional body now and they have the opportunity to review performances. I just think at the moment it's a numbers game and possibly they haven't got enough numbers of the right quality."
Even Sir Alex Ferguson admitted United were fortunate with the first goal. "I have to say Ashley was a yard offside so I can understand Mark being angry and disappointed," the United manager said. "You see decisions like that every week, you know."