• Champions League

RVP slams 'cowardly' UEFA

ESPN staff
March 21, 2013
Cuneyt Cakir has drawn criticism over his dismissal of Nani © AP

Manchester United striker Robin van Persie could be in hot water with UEFA after branding the organisation 'cowardly' for their support of referee Cuneyt Cakir over the sending off of Nani against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

The Turkish official was heavily criticised for his decision to red card the winger when United, having drawn the first leg, were 1-0 up in the return game at Old Trafford. After Nani's dismissal, Real went on to win 2-1 and clinch a place in the quarter-finals.

UEFA referees' assessor Pierluigi Collina, who took charge of the 1999 Champions League final and the 2002 World Cup final, backed Cakir and gave him a mark of 8.2 for his performance.

But Van Persie remains annoyed that United were reduced to ten men and said Nani did not even commit a foul.

"That red card was heavily unjustified," Van Persie told Dutch website AD.nl. "It was not even a yellow card or a free-kick. Nani couldn't do anything about it - he hardly touched [Alvaro] Arbeloa.

"The worst thing is that UEFA supports him. That's cowardly, because I really don't understand it. Why don't they just be honest and say: 'He hasn't seen it'?"

Van Persie said the victorious Real players admitted Cakir erred and believes United would be in the last eight had Nani remained on the pitch.

"Even the guys from Madrid told me afterwards that it was not a red card," he added. "For an hour everything was looking good, the tactics seemed to be right.

"We really had the feeling that we were going to score the second goal and then it would become very difficult for Real Madrid. But then the referee pulled the red card. Real were not dangerous at all. I'm sure we would have kept our lead. So now it's all about the title in the Premier League."

Cakir, an insurance agent from Istanbul, refereed semi-finals of last season's Champions League and Euro 2012 but Van Persie said he was too inexperienced to be given such a big game.

He said: "I didn't understand before the game that this man would be the referee, such an unknown referee who hasn't been in charge of a big game for months."

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