Europa: VAR explain controversial Man Utd handball against Real Sociedad

It was a disappointing outing for Manchester United as they lost at home to Real Sociedad 0-1 in their Europa League group stage opener. Erik ten Hag boys conceded a controversial penalty that made a difference in the game halfway into the second half.

In most cases, a penalty would unlikely be awarded as the event that preceded it was a leg deflection. However, after verification by the video-assisted referees, the original decision was allowed and Manchester United lost their opening Europa game on the day the Queen of England Elizabeth II departed the world.

Penalty Buildup

David Silva fired a shot from the inside the box just about 12 minutes into the second half and the ball bounced up off Lisandro Martinez’s leg and onto his arm. Despite the incident being reviewed, the original decision to award a spot kick stood and Brais Mendez converted. Manchester United argued it should not have been a handball because it struck a legal body part before touching Martinez’s arm, and his arm was in a natural position.

What does Football Rule Say about Such Incident?

According to the rule of the game, it is only handball if a player “touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation.” Thus, it was deemed Martinez’s arm was in an unnatural position just before and during the contact – though that interpretation, in this case, has been widely viewed as suspect.


Of course, the decision is not widely accepted and that calls for more scrutiny adding to the latest in a long line of decisions that have led to criticism about the use of VAR, with support growing for the technology to be reformed.

Up Next for Manchester United

After the disappointing Europa outing, the Red Devils return to action in the Premier League scheduled to travel to Crystal Palace on Monday. However, that game could be canceled following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Read Also: Cristiano Ronaldo makes claim about Man Utd star ahead of Europa League match

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