Martin Atkinson had no other option than to give Arsenal’s opening goal against Manchester United, according to former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg.

The Gunners took the lead in somewhat controversial circumstances when Emile Smith Rowe drove the ball home from the edge of the box while David De Gea lay injured on the ground.

The goalkeeper was left out of action after team-mate Fred trod on his heel amid a scramble at a corner, with the ball being cleared out to the edge of the box before being moved on to Smith Rowe.

Atkinson blew his whistle just as the ball hit the back of the net, and appeared to not be awarding the goal as De Gea received treatment.

But, after consulting with VAR, Atkinson was informed he should give Arsenal the lead, leaving United's players furious.

And analysing the incident for Amazon Prime Video, former referee Clattenburg backed up the decision, insisting the goal had to be awarded as no foul had occurred.

“Martin Atkinson has to give the goal here because what you see is Fred accidentally stamp on De Gea’s foot, so therefore it isn't a foul by an Arsenal player,” Clattenburg said.

“He doesn’t blow the whistle so therefore he has to give the goal.”

The whistle became the crucial part of the incident, with replays showing Atkinson had been set to blow before he saw Smith Rowe about to shoot.

Had he blown at that point, the goal would not have been able to stand due to the game having been brought to a halt before the ball had crossed the goal line.

Atkinson though moved the whistle away from his mouth, choosing instead to blow once the ball had hit the back of the net, meaning the goal had to be awarded.

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