United outplayed Newcastle on Sunday, scoring three times without reply. Cisse’s header, had it been declared a goal, would have made it 2-1 with 40 minutes to play. Pardew argued it could have kick-started a Newcastle comeback.
‘‘The stadium would have gone mad,’’ he said. ‘‘Suddenly, we would have had great pressure and they would have got a bit nervous.’’
Or United might have won anyway. That’s academic now. Still, who knows how important a goal for Newcastle, even if it didn’t alter the result, could prove when these things are tallied at the end of the season? Last season, Manchester City and United finished in first place with exactly the same number of points — 89. But City was crowned Premier League champion because its goal difference — between goals scored and conceded — was better than United's. So these things can matter.
This multibillion-dollar global sport is always going to be full of what-ifs and maybes. But whether a ball crossed a line shouldn’t be generating them.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester