Martin O’Neill offered a damning assessment of referee Mike Riley’s performance during Aston Villa’s cruel stoppage time defeat at Manchester United.
O’Neill remonstrated with the Yorkshire official at the final whistle after Federico Macheda’s goal in the third minute of injury time clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory for United.
The Villa manager was angry at Riley and his assistants’ failure to spot an infringement against Ashley Young in the build up to the decisive strike.
O’Neill was also of the opinion that the referee played an excessive amount of time added on – five minutes – given that there were only three substitutions and a limited number of stoppages for injuries.
“The referee plays five minutes which was no surprise,” said O’Neill, whose side are now six points adrift of Arsenal and just one ahead of Everton in the challenge for a top four place and the Champions League qualification which comes with it.
“He wouldn’t have played five minutes at Villa Park.
“I sound as if I’m bleating here and allow me to bleat for 10 seconds. There was a foul on Ashley Young in the build-up to the last goal, right in front of the linesman who proceeds to get three offsides wrong and important ones because we were through on goal.
“And he threw that one in for good measure, although the referee probably helped a lot.
“Anyway that’s my bleat finished.”
O’Neill felt Villa, who have now lost five and drew one of their past six Premier League games, deserved to take at least a point from the game.
However, the manager believes his team can take plenty of positives from the performance into next Sunday’s home match against nearest rivals Everton, who are now challenging Villa for sixth after yesterday’s 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic.
“I think the irony of it all is we’ll take great heart from the performance and I think that more than anything else might be able to sustain us,” added O’Neill.
“Six points at this stage is a big, big gap. It’s a big gap I accept that, but we’re capable of winning.
“We need to win quite a significant number of matches between now and the end.
“The one ingredient that we need is just that wee slice of luck. Everybody needs it, even the great Sir Alex needs it. He doesn’t need linesmen and referee’s help every single week though.”