An intriguing Thursday evening fixture between two struggling Premier League giants quickly devolved into controversy when Arsenal scored a goal while Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea was down injured.
The sequence started with an Arsenal corner whipped in by Martin Ødegaard. As the ball went up, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea had his right heel accidentally stepped on by his teammate, Fred.
De Gea went down in pain but play continued, and Arsenal's Emil Smith-Rowe put the ball in the back of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
Referee Martin Atkinson blew his whistle shortly after the ball crossed the line, and then the controversy started. Players on both sides surrounded Atkinson, and after a VAR review, the goal stood.
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 2, 2021
I'm not going to be overdramatic here; but is fair play dead???
It shouldn't matter who stepped on de Gea because clearly he's hurt. How many field players keep playing after an injury like that? Smith-Rowe would be down for a minimum of two minutes after getting cleated like that.
Should he have tried to get up? Maybe. I can't speak to the type of player that de Gea is, but if he goes down injured, I tend to believe that he is genuinely hurt.
And who is to say how badly he is injured? If he sprained his ankle or suffered a severe injury, would people react differently? (keep this in mind in a minute)
There are fools out here who saw the replay and upon seeing that Fred stepped on de Gea, believe that de Gea's injury is somehow less valid because it was inflicted by a teammate.
But how many people correctly diagnosed what happened in real time? And additionally, why should it matter?
If the goalkeeper is hurt you don't ask questions, you put the ball out of play. End of discussion. Otherwise, it's an open goal for the opposing team.
It's a sign of respect as old as the game itself — like not punching a boxer when he is down.
Paolo Di Canio set the standard back in 2000, catching the ball when the opposing goalkeeper went down injured and depriving his side of an open-goal opportunity. The keeper's injury was non-contact, but Di Canio knew better than to score such a shameful goal.
Interestingly, a similar incident to the de Gea episode occurred in Turkey less than a week ago during a Süper Lig match between Beşiktaş and Giresunspor.
Giresunspor had a 2v1 attacking opportunity late in the match when Beşiktaş goalkeeper Mert Günok went down in a heap of pain.
Play continued, and Giresunspor winger Joe Champness scored into an empty net. As it turns out, Günok suffered a torn ACL. Yet the goal still counted.
What are we as a sport without fair play?