Written by Sam Royden @SamRoyden
After a disappointing defeat away at Leicester on New Years Eve, we welcomed Manchester United to the London Stadium for the first fixture of 2017. Mike Dean was the referee appointed for this fixture and the last time Dean officiated a West Ham game, he gave two penalties including a last minute penalty to Spurs, which saw Spurs win 3-2 after West Ham went ahead twice on the night. Dean currently has the highest penalty per game ratio of any referee so far this season, awarding 9 penalties in 18 games in the Premier League.
Mike Dean, a referee who oozes arrogance and his admiration for the spotlight, probably earned himself the headlines within the first 15 minutes of the game. Mike Dean made an encouraging start to the game: he was in control and kept up with the fast tempo that West Ham set within the first 14 minutes. However, his good start was ruined by, in my opinion, a very poor decision to send off Sofiane Feghouli after a coming together with Phil Jones.
Mike Dean made countless errors with this decision which as a experienced referee, he shouldn’t be making. Firstly, both Sofiane Feghouli and Phil Jones committed themselves to a 50/50 ball. When you look back at the incident, in fairness Phil Jones won the ball and Feghouli’s challenge was late, but both players challenged the ball and both players caught each other one way or another. Secondly, both players are entitled to challenge for the ball. Feghouli wasn’t using excessive force; his leg wasn’t straight and wasn’t leading with his studs and more importantly wasn’t dangering Jones’ safety. Finally, the reaction of Phil Jones and the Manchester United players, in my opinion, was a key factor in Dean’s decision making. Dean blew for the foul, which was the correct decision because Feghouli didn’t win the ball and correctly took his time to make his decision however he made an awful decision. As a referee, you cannot allow your decisions to be dictated by players reactions. The fact that Phil Jones was rolling around after the challenge while four Manchester United players were surrounding Dean played a massive part in his decision, which is absolutely unacceptable from a referee’s prospective.
When I think back to challenges by Marcus Rojo earlier in the season, particularly when Manchester United visited Goodison Park when Rojo went in two footed and off the ground and only received a yellow card, makes this decision to send off Feghouli very embarrassing. Rojo dangered the safety of his opponent on numerous occasions by using excessive force. Mike Dean was also in charge of the Merseyside derby when he failed to send off Ross Barkley after a horrendously late and high challenge on Jordan Henderson.
Shortly after the red card, with the West Ham fans rightly furious and on Mike Deans back, Dean lost complete control of the match and felt the pressure which was effecting his decision making. Jesse Lingard caught Cheikhou Kouyaté late with his challenge which Mike Dean correctly blew for a foul, but in my opinion, should have been a booking. Lingard was late, the tackle wasn’t necessary. Dean was clearly still thinking about his previous decision and it effected his judgement.
With his mindset clearly affected, Mike Dean cautioned Dimitri Payet for what I believe was dissent (only Mike Dean knows what Payet said to him but dissent is cause for a booking this season). After some challenges that Dean let go against Manchester United, Matteo Darmian was the first United player booked after blocking Michail Antonio, who was continuing his run into an advanced position. Before the yellow card for Darmian, Håvard Nordtveit could have been cautioned for his foul, which Mike Dean ignored, once again showing signs of poor judgement.
Mike Dean continued his poor performance by blowing up on a foul against Cheikhou Kouyaté on Henrikh Mkhitaryan. If you watched the game live on Sky Sports, I think Gary Neville’s alliance with Manchester United made his decision slightly biased as he said ‘It could have been a leg break’. Kouyaté won the ball, but the West Ham midfielder looked to be off the ground and that’s when it can become dangerous.
To sum up a horrendous match for the officials, the assistant referee failed to flag Ibrahimovic offside for Manchester United’s second goal of the match. The decision should have been simple for the assistant referee. West Ham’s defensive line moved up leaving Ibrahimovic, who was static, two yards offside when receiving the ball. Sometimes it’s fine margins with offside and human error can happen and sometimes it’s an extremely difficult decision to make. But in this instance, Ibrahimovic is clearly beyond the last West Ham defender and in my opinion, a basic decision for the assistant to make. There were three Manchester United players in an offside position when Ibrahimovic received the ball. If either of the three players, including Ibrahimovic, received the ball they should have been flagged offside.
I’m struggling to put into words how poor Mike Dean’s performance was. Since the 14th minute, Dean made countless poor decisions and this is even down to not booking Winston Reid for an obvious handball. Reid stuck his arm out to prevent the ball going to Juan Mata, who was running in behind the West Ham defender. This epitomises Dean’s performance as he rightly blew for the foul but why he didn’t issue Reid a yellow, which would have been the right decision, is beyond me.
I can safely say that Mike Dean’s performance is one of the worst I’ve analysed this season. Mike Dean is undoubtedly one of the most arrogant referees in the league and you can see that players do not respect his authority nor decision making. Dean adores the limelight and he’s an embarrassment to the referee’s association. Earlier in the game I saw on replays that Dean, after he gave a foul against West Ham, said to Pedro Obiang “Don’t look at me again, otherwise you won’t be playing again”. For what reason Mike Dean? If Obiang was showing dissent, you would caution him. I’m lost for words on what to think as to why Mike Dean has the audacity to react like that.
Dean is the last referee that I’d want any aspiring young referee to watch and mirror as his behaviour on the field is unacceptable. A good and well respected referee communicates with players, allows the players to understand why you’ve made that decision and applies the Laws of The Game. Dean doesn’t do this and this is why he’s still not an accredited FIFA Referee like Mark Clattenburg and Martin Atkinson. Will the FA or the referee association review Mike Dean? Probably not, but his standard of refereeing isn’t good enough for the Premier League and his overall attitude and competence is shameful.
I feel for the West Ham players. The first 14 minutes and even after the sending off, we played well and we controlled the game; we pressed well with good tempo. We were desperately unlucky to lose considering the decisions and if Michail Antonio’s shot that David De Gea saved went in, I think the game would have turned out completely different. The fact that Mata scored 60 seconds after Antonio’s attempt really cost us and Ibrahimovic’s offside goal really summed up a very unlucky game for West Ham.