Manchester United fans watched on in disbelief after Southampton’s Oriol Romeu escaped a red card after a ‘sickening’ challenge on young Mason Greenwood in United’s 2-2 draw at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils blew a chance to return to the top four of the league for the first time since September when Southampton substitute Michael Obafemi scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time to secure a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford on Monday.
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It was the latest twist in a turbulent race for Champions League qualification, coming on the day second-placed Manchester City had their two-year ban from European competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
That means a finish in the top four is required to join Europe's elite next season.
But football fans were left bewildered in the first-half when Romeu came in late on Greenwood and clearly collected his ankle with a studs-up challenge, which many thought warranted a red card.
But VAR appeared to deem the challenge wasn’t worthy of a red and play continued.
United legend, turned commentator, Gary Neville blasted Romeu for the challenge.
“I do not like that,” he said.
“I think that’s a bad one. The ball’s gone, he’s tried to do him.
“I think he’s lucky there, Romeu. The ball’s gone, they can be leg breakers those ones.”
Fans were furious such a challenge could go unpunished, despite VAR checking so many incidents throughout a game.
The more you see the Romeu tackle on Greenwood the more it beggars belief he has not been sent off. VAR pointlessly check replays of onside/offside players yet gave that a cursory glance, it seems.— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) July 13, 2020
The frustration with VAR isn't the system, it's some of the interpretations of the rules. Romeu could've put Greenwood out for a year with his tackle. It's a red. It's dangerous. It's very late. The lad's lucky to not be seriously hurt. English refs are too lenient. #MUFC #MUNSOU— Rob Blanchette (@_Rob_B) July 13, 2020
Oriol Romeu could easily have ruined Greenwood’s young career with that challenge, and set him back years. It’s one thing missing an offside or getting a handball wrong, but what are the VAR officials doing ignoring an attempted leg breaker like that?— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) July 13, 2020
Absolutely furious about that. Greenwood’s lucky to be unscathed. How hard is it to send the ref to the VAR screen? If he sees that, it’s a red card.— Adam (@Adam_Owens95) July 13, 2020
VAR decided that Romeu trying to break Greenwood’s leg wasn’t a red card. The ball isn’t even in the photo, that’s how late it was pic.twitter.com/kTX0RySrqC— dummyaccountformemes (@dummyaccountfo8) July 13, 2020
United remain in fifth place after draw
Obafemi's dramatic close-range strike from a corner kept United in fifth place - behind Leicester City only on goal difference with three games remaining with Chelsea one point ahead in third place.
On the final day of the season, Leicester host United in what could be a lucrative, winner-takes-all match.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Southampton were worthy of heading back to the south coast with a point.
"You just have to be strong and take it," he said of the gut-punch that denied his team a fifth-straight victory.
"Because we have won so many games like that ourselves.
"We probably didn't deserve three points today."
The match went so deep into added-on time only after a facial injury to substitute Brandon Williams, which left United with 10 men for the final three minutes because Solskjaer had used all five of his replacements.
United had enough chances to win a game in which they fell behind in the 12th minute, when Stuart Armstrong scored.
Two goals from United in a three-minute span turned things around.
Marcus Rashford netted a 20th-minute equaliser before Anthony Martial scored his 50th Premier League goal to give the hosts the lead.
Solskjaer fielded the same starting line-up for the fifth game in a row and is likely to freshen things up for the match against Crystal Palace on Thursday - with Luke Shaw in doubt through injury.