For the sake of referees at every level of the game, the FA must hit Aleksandar Mitrovic with a minimum 10-match ban for his actions at Old Trafford in Fulham’s 3-1 loss to Manchester United. He placed his hands on referee Chris Kavanagh, and that is simply unacceptable.
I cannot fathom what goes through a player’s head in moments such as that, and we really need the sport’s governing body to take strong, decisive action. A three-game ban will not suffice, and if that is what happens it would send an awful message.
We have seen an increase in dissent in recent weeks, and enough is enough. I was critical of the officials for not taking action against Bruno Fernandes when he laid his hands on the assistant referee during Manchester United’s game with Liverpool, but this was as clear as day.
What made it even more baffling was that it came after an obviously correct decision by Kavanagh to send off Willian for handling Jadon Sancho’s shot on the line. Kavanagh didn’t have the best view initially but this was Var working as it should, giving him the opportunity to make the correct decision having seen the incident again.
Fulham manager Marco Silva also lost his cool, and Kavanagh was right to send him off for trying to interfere while he was looking at the video monitor.
But Mitrovic then decided to take centre-stage with his ludicrous actions. He started with what was essentially a verbal assault on Kavanagh, and then placed his hands on the referee. His demeanour was extremely threatening, and I feel Kavanagh was absolutely justified in all three of the red cards he showed in that mad 40-second period.
What we have now is a wait to see what the FA will do next. But there can be little doubt the image of the game has been tarnished, and we know that what happens at elite level filters through to the grassroots. Referees at all levels feel vulnerable, and the FA have a duty of care to them in ensuring Mitrovic is punished in full to send a message that this kind of behaviour is simply unacceptable and will not be tolerated.