Martin O’Neill is adamant that the Football Association’s Respect the Ref campaign still has his total support despite his angry condemnation of referee Peter Foy.
The Aston Villa manager was incensed by the Merseyside official’s failure to take any action against Nemanja Vidic during Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Manchester United.
Television replays clearly showed the Serbian defender tugging the shirt of Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor in the 57th minute of the Premier League match at Villa Park.
O’Neill argued that the illegal offence took place inside the penalty area and his team should have been awarded a spot kick during the scoreless encounter.
The Villa manager insisted that even if the referee viewed the challenge as having happened outside the area then Vidic should still have been red-carded.
However, Foy refused to give a foul and the Manchester United defender escaped punishment.
“I can understand the concern about whether it’s a penalty or whether it’s not a penalty, but it’s a foul, it’s as simple as that,” said O’Neill.
“Of course if we get the foul the consequences of that are that the player has to be sent off because it’s a goalscoring opportunity. I can understand not being sure whether it’s a penalty kick or not. I think myself it is, but that doesn’t really matter and of course I would think that anyway.
“It’s a big decision in the game. I think that was a big point in the game and he chose to ignore it. It is a foul and it is a sending off offence. It was too big a decision for him.
“Between the referee and the linesman they could have sorted it out. They got it wrong.”
O’Neill spoke at length recently about the need to persevere with the FA’s commendable campaign to stop match officials coming in for excessive abuse.
He stands by his stance that referees have a difficult job and does not believe that any of his words or deeds have violated the Respect the Ref code.
“I think the referee’s job is exceptionally difficult, it is honestly,” said O’Neill. “I’m into this respect for referees greatly and I haven’t broken the code.
Otherwise, the Villa manager was delighted with the way his team followed up their victory at Arsenal with a deserved draw against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Premier League champions.
The point earned against opponents they have failed to beat in the league since 1995 lifts Villa into the top four.
“I thought we tried to compete,” said O’Neill. “We didn’t create the same number of chances as we did against Arsenal last week, but we tried to replicate the play, which is very difficult against Manchester United.
“In the end I’m delighted with the team. There’s been two big games for us on the back of losses to Newcastle and Middlesbrough.”