Did Ronaldo score a legal goal?

Thankfully in the end it did not affect the outcome of the match, but debate is raging today over the validity of Cristiano Ronaldo’s header which was chalked off just before Nemanja Vidic headed in United’s opener.

With the first half drawing to a close, United won a corner. Wayne Rooney ran over to the flag and subtedly rolled his foot over the ball in a crafty effort to take a quick corner. No Chelsea players reacted, presumably in the belief that Rooney was leaving the kick for Ryan Giggs to take. However in reality Rooney’s intention was to restart the play and Ryan Giggs, savvy to the plan, then collected the ball and delivered a cross for Cristiano Ronaldo to score with a header.

Immediately, linesman Darren Cann waved his flag to overrule the goal and, taking instruction from his assistant, Howard Dean ruled the goal invalid. But was this this correct decision?

(UPDATE: Ronaldo’s disallowed goal, showing Rooney’s touch, can be seen here.)

Sir Alex Ferguson was insistent in his post match interview (in which he added to the war of words with Rafa Benitez) that the goal should have stood, arguing that the players are under no obligation to inform the officials of their plans beforehand. (Sir Alex’s post match interview can be seen here.)

But this is not the first time in history that the quick corner-kick trick has been put into practice, and the history books are split over whether Ronaldo’s goal should have been awarded.

Several seasons back, Croats Ivan Rakitic and Mladen Petric pulled the same stunt for FC Basel in match in the Swiss Super League. On the occasion the goal was held valid. (Video evidence here.)

Yet in last season’s Serie A match between Roma and AC Milan, the quick corner-kick trick was again put into effect, however it was deemed illegal. Then, David Pizarro ran over to the corner flag and played the role of pushing the ball just outside the arch of the corner spot. Pizarro then ran away from the ball, leaving Rodrigo Taddei to waltz over to the corner where he immediately picked up the ball and ran towards the box in an attempt to create a goal-scoring opportunity. However, on that occasion the eagle-eyed linesman quickly flagged the play and the move was disallowed by the referee.

In a video from Italian TV analysing the Pizarro-Taddei corner, the panel also showed footage from a Spanish La Liga match where yet again the quick corner-kick trick was employed and in that instance the play was deemed legal.

(Video evidence of both the Pizarro-Taddei corner and the routine from Spain can be seen here.)

So was the goal legal? The jury seems split.