Experience v youth

Saturday 19 October 2002

Assistant manager Christian Damiano refused to be drawn into making any allegations of cheating against Manchester United goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, after the stopper's display of, what can best be described as gamesmanship, before saving Steed Malbranque's penalty.

However, Damiano insisted that Malbranque could well have taken advantage of the situation, as the referee had apparently blown his whistle whilst Barthez was standing by the post.

"The referee was in position to handle the situation between Gary Neville and Marlet. He did not see Barthez's position," said Damiano.

"He whistled and the goal was empty but Steed was correct and he waited even though he could have shot at the goal. It was the first time he has missed a penalty and, yes, the waiting put him off a little bit.

"Barthez tried to take his time and disturb the attention of Malbranque. When the referee whistles, you can shoot, but Barthez put trouble on Malbranque."

Asked if Barthez had behaved correctly, Damiano replied: "No, he profited from the situation. You might say it's cheating, I don't know."

"We could have exploited the situation and could have won against a great team. It was very close but Barthez saved two or three great chances. He played great."

Some will classify Barthez's actions as gamesmanship, whilst others will accuse him of cheating.

Nonetheless, if the referee's whistle had indeed been blown - signalling that the penalty kick could have been taken, it was only a lack of experience from 22-year old Malbranque that prevented him from stroking the ball into an empty net.