Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City: Was Bruno Fernandes’ equalizer ‘joke’ or ‘intelligent’?

Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji says Bruno Fernandes’ equalizer in the Manchester derby was a “joke”, while Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag admitted he “wouldn’t be happy if we conceded a goal like this”.

Fernandes got past Ederson to cancel out Jack Grealish’s first-time strike, but the goal was initially ruled out as assistant referee Darren Cann raised the flag for offside against Marcus Rashford.

The England international was apparently in the backfield and ran towards the ball, but after speaking to Cann referee Stuart Attwell, he ruled that Rashford had not interfered with the play.

Alejandro Garnach’s cross was headed in by Rashford moments later to give him the lead United win at a stormy Old Trafford, leaving them one point behind second-placed City.

‘I see disappointment on the other side’

Akanji was the closest defender to Rashford and played an offside trap as the striker ran onto Casemiro’s ball.

He ran towards the ball before laying it away after Fernandes called out and the latter finished past the advancing Ederson.

Fernandes reacted angrily to the offside flag and both groups of players gathered around Cann and Attwell during their discussion.

“To be honest, the first goal is a joke,” Akanji told BBC Match of the Day. “I saw Rashford, he was obviously offside, so I let him offside.

“He runs until the last second and stops when the ball is in front of him and he is right in front of Eddy [Ederson]ready to score a goal, because Bruno Fernandes shouts at him.

“I understand that he doesn’t touch the ball, but he runs 30 meters and until the last second. For me, it’s clearly offside. The referee doesn’t even look at the situation, it was explained at the beginning of this year, he would clearly be offside.”

Ten Hag, who won his first Manchester derby at second question time, said: “I could see from the other side that he confused the back line, that was clear. That’s the rule as well.

“I wouldn’t be happy if my team conceded a goal like this. I see disappointment on the other side, but I also see that the referee did a good job.”

City boss Pep Guardiola added: “Marcus Rashford is offside, Bruno Fernandes is not. Rashford is distracting our goalkeeper and centre-backs. It is what it is. We know where we are playing. It is difficult for the referees in these stadiums.”

‘He doesn’t interfere with anyone’

For their part, Rashford and Fernandes felt that the goal should have stood.

“I thought I left a bit early so I didn’t run. If I had run for the ball I would have just taken it, shot or passed it. I thought I was offside so I didn’t touch the ball,” Rashford said.

“That’s all I can do in that situation and then it’s up to the referee and the linesman. I wasn’t involved in the play in my opinion. I felt it should have stayed.”

Fernandes, speaking on BT Sport, said: “I was looking towards the goal, Marcus probably saw I was in a better position. I didn’t know if either of us was offside. He didn’t have any impact on the defenders. It is what it is. “

Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and midfielder Paul Scholes, who work as pundits on BT Sport, agree.

Ferdinand said: “Rashford doesn’t affect any of the defenders running steps, patterns or positions. That’s intelligent from him and Fernandes. I don’t feel any of the defenders can affect any of that.”

Scholes said: “He doesn’t interfere with anyone. It’s good communication and a great finish.”

Former Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott agreed it should have been a goal, but added: “It’s a part of the rule I don’t like. The defender did well to play offside.”

What does the law say?

The official Ifab law for 2022-23 (Rule 11.2) states:

A player who is in the backfield at the moment the ball is played or touched by a teammate is penalized only if he is involved in active play:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a teammate or
  • disrupting the opponent:

1. Preventing the opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of sight or

2. Challenging the opponent to the ball or

3. A clear attempt to play the ball that is close when this action affects the opponent or

4. An obvious action that clearly affects the opponent’s ability to play the ball


  • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with the opponent when he has:

1. Rebound or bounced ball from goal post, crossbar, match official or opponent

2. He was intentionally saved by any opponent

‘Rashford must be interfering’ – how social networks reacted

Ben: I don’t support any team, but that’s 100% offside. Rashford passes out to shoot, and the goalkeeper and defenders watch the two players. Officials are making it up on the fly.

Paul J: Rashford does not interfere or play that ball. It MUST stand. Nothing is controversial here.

Steve: Shocking VAR did not disallow the first goal and the second came as a result. Referees and VAR are indefensible.

Alex Haworth: I mean the equalizer is 100% offside, Rashford passed the ball to Bruno. But what a twist.

Andrew Mitchell: I’m a Utd fan so obviously I’m happy but further proof of how ridiculous the offside rule is. Rashford may not have touched it, but he’s chasing that ball, for all intents and purposes he’s the one in possession, how can he not be an active player?

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