Why was Bruno Fernandes’ goal allowed to stand against Manchester City?

Bruno Fernandes equalized for Manchester United against Manchester City on Saturday – but there was an element of controversy to the goal.

The goal was initially flagged as offside, with the decision then being overturned after referee Stuart Attwell spoke to assistant referee Darren Cann.

The Athletic explains why the goal stood below.

What happened?

In the 78th minute of Saturday’s Manchester Derby at Old Trafford, Casemiro played a through ball up the pitch.

Casemiro plays the ball towards Rashford and Fernandes (Photo: BT Sport)

Marcus Rashford initially chased after the ball, despite being in an offside position when Casemiro released the ball. Rashford, though, did not touch the ball, with the pass eventually dropping to Fernandes, who had been onside.

Rashford and Fernandes converge on the ball (Photo: BT Sport)

Rashford and Fernandes converge on the ball (Photo: BT Sport)

Fernandes then hit the ball past Ederson to draw United level in the match.

Fernandes shapes to shoot (Photo: BT Sport)

Fernandes shapes to shoot (Photo: BT Sport)

Why was Bruno Fernandes’ goal allowed to stand against Manchester City?

This is the big question, and the explanation lies in the fact that the offside rule has recently been altered.

A player is now judged to be offside if they either touch the ball after being in an offside position, or their involvement stops an opposition player from playing the ball.

Rashford ran alongside the ball but did not touch it, and no City defenders were in a position to touch the ball and divert it away from Fernandes.

As a result, the initial on-pitch decision was overturned and the goal was awarded to Fernandes.

What do the rules actually say?

In the International Football Association Board (IFAB) Laws of the Game for 2022-23, it says the following:

“A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a teammate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by a teammate or
  • interfering with an opponent by:
    • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
    • challenging an opponent for the ball or
    • clearly trying to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball


  • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:
    • rebounded or was deflected off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent
    • been deliberately saved by any opponent”

What has been said?

After the match, Fernandes spoke to BT Sport about the controversial goal.

He said: “I think because I was facing the goal, Marcus probably saw that I was in a better position. I didn’t know whether any of us was offside or not.

“It doesn’t have any influence because there was no one close to him, so it doesn’t make any influence on the (City) teammates to defend. The only one (defender) close was one close to me. It is what it is. It’s a goal, at the end, and we are really happy for that.”

City manager Pep Guardiola said: “Rashford is offside, Bruno is not offside, the question is interference. When one player from the 18-yard box shoots and one player is in front of the goalkeeper but does not touch the ball, it is disallowed all the time.

“The situation and the decision is the referee’s, the VAR, our defenders make a line (for Rashford), if we know it’s Fernandes we don’t make the line, we follow the action, and after the action the interference for Edi ( Ederson).

“This is the decision in this stadium with the referee and the VAR. After conceding a goal we cannot concede the next one, this is the most important detail we have to improve in the future.

“Are we going to make a complaint? No. It sometimes happens on our side.

“The decision is they didn’t believe Rashford was intervening in this stadium. This is Old Trafford, we have to play much better, like Anfield, we have to do better.”

What did the goal mean?

It was crucial in the context of the game.

City had been the better team since half-time and were 1-0 ahead courtesy of a Jack Grealish goal.

Fernandes’ equalizer was quickly followed by a goal from Rashford to put Erik ten Hag’s team ahead.

It put United on the way to a win that puts them in third just a single point behind City.

The win also moves them straight into the title picture — remarkably, given their bad start to the season — as they would be just six points behind current leaders Arsenal. Arsenal, though, will have a game in hand.

How did the managers react to the goal?

Erik ten Hag clearly was surprised it had been allowed.

He admitted: “I wouldn’t be happy if my team conceded a goal like this. You saw the reaction from the other team.”

He also told BT Sport: “I can see it from the other side as well. The rules, it’s a confusing moment for the back line of the opponent. The rules say Marcus didn’t touch the ball and he wasn’t interfering. Bruno came from the back — but I can see it from the other side.”

(Photo: Getty Images)


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