HOWARD WEBB wanted to see Cristiano Ronaldo miss a penalty for Manchester United – after realising he’d made his biggest-ever mistake.
In April 2009, a match between the Red Devils and Tottenham at Old Trafford turned in the home side’s favour after a controversial penalty call.
With United 2-0 down, Michael Carrick hit the deck after a challenge from Heurelho Gomes and the referee pointed to the spot, only for replays to show the goalkeeper clearly getting the ball.
And retired ref Webb admitted wanting to see Ronaldo fluff his lines before the forward drilled the ball home to start a dramatic 5-2 comeback win for United.
He told The Athletic: “The one that stands out is one where in the game I knew I got it wrong.
“It was a Premier League game at Old Trafford — Manchester United versus Tottenham Hotspur in 2009.
“I could see Carrick got there first and then the goalkeeper clattered into him. It was really an easy penalty award.
“I was expecting the usual cursory appeal that you get from the players, not the huge look of absolute astonishment and amazement and incredulousness on the look of Gomes.
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“It was obvious within seconds I’d got the decision wrong. There was something more to this.
“I was left with the decision I had taken with no independent evidence that I’d got it wrong other than a gut feeling, and I was just hoping that Ronaldo would miss the penalty. But he didn’t.”
Webb also battled accusations of favouring Sir Alex Ferguson’s United during his esteemed career in the English game.
And the 50-year-old has previously talked of overconfidence in the Spurs match having been “on a high” off the back of his call-up to that year’s FA Cup final.
Webb would later officiate the 2010 World Cup final where a combative Dutch team lost to Spain, Nigel de Jong memorably avoiding a red card for an outrageous kick on Andres Iniesta.
But it is the penalty error at Old Trafford that sticks in the referee’s mind more than any other.
He revealed his reaction to be: “Just ‘Oh s***’, really.
I was just hoping that Ronaldo would miss the penalty. But he didn’t
“You just know. You can tell as a ref. You can see the momentum shift. You can see the way the game is going.
“At 2-1, you never know. At 2-2, you can see the way this game is going.
“When [the camera] misses all those players and runs up to you [at full-time], as a ref, it’s not a good feeling.
“You just know you have a world of pain coming your way.”
After the game, Ferguson confessed his side’s first goal was “a bit fortunate” while Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp was damning in his criticism.
He declared: “It was a gift which wasn’t deserved. It was a terrible decision.
“Howard is supposed to be our best ref, but if he’s the best I’d hate to see the worst.”