When I first saw Bjorn Kuipers I was impressed, and felt he could develop into a very high calibre referee. However, two years later he does not seem to have built on his potential and tonight his performance was decidedly mediocre.
Keeping up appearances
I felt that Kuipers was not always consistent in his judgement of fouls, awarding a number of free kicks for negligible contact. He also awarded a very debatable free kick against Giggs in the 45th minute for handball; Kuipers was in an excellent position and should have judged that it was not deliberate. His card policy was variable, in particular the caution he issued to Ashley Young. Perhaps the tackle was worthy of a yellow, perhaps not, but the way Kuipers issued the card was all wrong. He waited 5-6 seconds from whistling the free kick before deciding to book Young, during which time the Basel players, manager and fans had shouted and jeered for a card. By waiting so long it made it seem as though the Basel reaction had influenced his decision, costing Kuipers his credibility in this situation.
In the build up the Basel's first goal, there was an accidental clash between Smalling and Vidic, which left Smalling on the ground with an apparent head injury. In such situations the referee should stop play immediately to allow medical attention. Manchester cannot hold Kuipers as culpable in the goal situation, that is De Gea's responsibility. I am slightly concerned, however, that he gave a higher priority to the attacking play than a potential head injury.
Kuipers just got too many of the small decisions wrong. While he did try to let the game flow, and was very well assisted (AR's perfect and AAR helped to confirm that the United goal was over the line), the overall performance lacked consistency and credible authority. Having seen Kuipers a fair few times now, I feel the Champions League is perhaps just a bit too far for him, and he would sit better in the Europa League, rather like a very disappointing Manchester United.