Manchester United, diving and the art of managerial misdirection

David Moyes called the refereeing decisions in Manchester United's defeat to Tottenham Hotspur 'scandalous' and 'horrible', but are his players simply reaping what they have sowed?

Few Manchester United players are performing as well as they did under Alex Ferguson, and where once the Old Trafford crowd were capable of sucking the ball into the net, or at least on to the penalty spot, the old magic is drying up under David Moyes. Needless to say, the new manager is unimpressed by his club's change in fortunes.

With his team struggling against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night, Moyes sent Ashley Young on to turn things around. The substitution seemed to be going to plan when the winger found himself in the box and on top of the Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Young had done what Young does. He made his way into the penalty area and forced the referee to make a decision. But Webb waved him away.

When the referee booked Adnan Januzaj for falling over on the edge of the box, Moyes fumed a little more. The manager wanted a penalty, a red card, a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area and a few more points, but perhaps Webb was understandably suspicious of the United players.

The players who looked to him for decisions are not always known for their honesty and enough officials have left Old Trafford looking weak and subservient to make referees question the wisdom of awarding penalties to the home team. When Young, Januzaj and Danny Welbeck fall over in the box, it can be easy to presume their guilt.

The FA may charge Moyes for calling the decisions 'scandalous' and 'horrible', but the manager won't care about the punishment if his words can tip the narrative back in his favour; United now lie seventh, 11 points behind leaders Arsenal.

Ferguson mastered the not-so-subtle art of moaning about officials to make his team look like victims. His wrath protected his players and fostered fear among referees.

Ferguson would not have stood for four home defeats so early in the season, but at least seeing Moyes defend his team and lambast the referee would have given him some sense of fatherly pride. The next time a United player goes down in the penalty area, will the referee be more likely to point to the spot?

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