Games between Chelsea and Manchester United are almost always ferocious and intense affairs, and if they’re not officiated properly, things can rapidly get out of hand.
Back in 2012, the best referee in the country at the time, Mark Clattenburg, was handed the fixture, but the aftermath of the match will live long in the memory.
It was the game where the official was apparently accused of racism by Chelsea star, Jon Obi Mikel. An incredible accusation to make of a match official, and one that Clattenburg has admitted he’s never quite got over.
Not only that, but it appeared that the Chelsea star wanted to inflict actual bodily harm on the official.
“I knew to expect a tirade of abuse from Chelsea supporters, but I was not beating myself up over my performance. It was then that I heard a commotion outside the dressing-room door,” Clattenburg wrote in his new autobiography ‘Whistle Blower,’ being serialised in the Daily Mail.
“Before I get to the door it swings open, and with some force. John Obi Mikel bursts in and I can see the rage in his eyes. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo and coach Eddie Newton are holding him back. Mikel is out of control; he’s trying to get at me. ‘I’m gonna break your legs!’ he shouts. He’s swinging for me.
“I have to be clear here – and this is extremely important – at this point there had been no mention of racism to me, either from Mikel or Di Matteo. No one had made any accusation of that nature.
“I left Stamford Bridge in the people-carrier and as we made our way out of West London towards Heathrow, there’s a social-media notification on the screen of my phone saying: ‘BREAKING NEWS: CHELSEA ACCUSE REFEREE MARK CLATTENBURG OF RACIST COMMENTS’.
“During those early hours overnight on the Sunday of the game, I realised the power of football clubs, the hold they have over the media. It was terrifying. It was the European champions against a referee – who would you believe?
“I am trapped. This could ruin my career. It could ruin my life. The fear is worse than going to prison. I am being called a racist. That is a real life-sentence, you don’t come back from that. Guilty until proven innocent, that is the English way.”
Given that particular account, is it any wonder that English football continues to struggle with getting good quality officials to referee at all levels including the top-flight?
You’d have to question why anyone would put themselves through such stress.