Poll: This terrible trend of demonising the referee has to stop

The decision to send Nani off in Manchester United’s Champions League defeat to Real Madrid has been described by some as an "aberration". An aberration? Really? Why can’t England teams lose gracefully with dignity and not blame somebody else. Cuneyt Cakir is a highly experienced and top world match official. And yet we can’t accept his decision. I watched him very closely throughout the match. His first half was virtually perfect. For someone with a reputation for chucking around cards, he was in this instance refereeing out of type. There were two deliberate handballs which he chose not to caution and a heavy challenge involving Ryan Giggs as he chased a ball he’d lost on the near touchline. All went unpunished. If he did made a mistake in the first half, it certainly favoured United. Cakir blew quickly when Madrid defender Sergio Ramos jumped with Robin van Persie, nudging the ball into the path of Gonzalo Higuain, who rolled home. Replays suggested there was no foul. It was a very good first half performance.
After the break, there was little in the early exchanges. That changed with Nani. In England we see the "foul" as unintentional, an accident, a player who is watching the ball through the air and merely trying to play it. The FA and their appeals body encourage us to do this buy overturning red cards which would be considered a perfectly acceptable decision in mainland Europe. Carlton Cole and Darron Gibson in the same game earlier this season are such examples. We always come back to "he didn’t mean it". That is irrelevant, you make your intention known by making the challenge. Roy Keane summed it up very well.
Watching as an English observer, I expected to see a yellow card, and was surprised when red was brandished. That prompted me to contact some current top international referees, all of whom felt Cakir was correct. The reason for the difference in view is that those to whom I spoke, and their peers, regularly attend elite referee courses run by UEFA committee, headed by Pierluigi Collina, the much respected former Italian referee. Collina is of the belief that "brutality" must be stamped out of the game, and his words will have been ringing in Cakir’s ears as he waited for Nani to stand up following his challenge. If there was any doubt in the Turkish official’s mind, the fact that Collina was watching inside Old Trafford would have removed that doubt. They are told twice a year at conferences. 
Howard Webb knows he was wrong not to send off Nigel de Jong in the World Cup final three years ago. Nani’s foul was, admittedly, not the same, but there are not degrees of severity. Back to Cakir’s performance, his second mistake - penalising Sergio Ramos being the first - was not seeing Manchester United full back Rafael block a goal-bound effort with his arm. On this occasion, I would have liked his additional assistant, standing only five feet away and on the goal line, to have seen the offence and informed him. After all, the ref can only give what he sees. The offence by Rafael again brings up the question whether it was deliberate or not, as with the debate over Nani. In the Brazilian’s case, he raises his arm to make himself bigger, fully aware the ball could strike it, thus preventing a goal. Real Madrid showed there are still examples of a ball hitting a hand or arm and it being accidental. When Sami Khdeira blocked a cross in the first half inside the area, the home fans roared for a penalty, but with his arms tight against the body, there was no way it could be given.
In summary, the supposedly card happy Cakir showed restraint when the game was forming, followed intrusion and was brave enough to dismiss the home player, fully understanding the fall-out from that decision. He then stayed firm and true to his principles in a very hostile environment. I’ve experienced that hostility, and you just want the ground to swallow you up. But you take yourself away from it, telling yourself "you’ll be off the pitch in a minute, it will be fine". Sometimes it has got so bad, that I’ve been smuggled out of European stadia under blankets because of the strength of feeling against me. But you zone out, you have to. It happened to me during a UEFA Cup match at San Sebastian, in Turkey at Galatasaray, and even at Sunderland. At the Stadium of Light, they were camped around the transport vehicle, so I huddled down at the back of the assessor’s car. How can that be right? How is Cakir getting all that stick, all that grief?

Source: Graham Poll/Daily Mail