Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg has explained why Emile Smith Rowe 's contentious opening goal for Arsenal was awarded against Manchester United.

Smith Rowe, 21, scored one of the most-unusual goals witnessed this season as he fired the visitors in front at Old Trafford in the 13th minute.

The Gunners ace volleyed into the near post of an empty net after a chaotic corner left David de Gea in a heap on the floor.

Referee Martin Atkinson did not award the goal initially as the United goalkeeper received treatment, but VAR instructed him to do so after checking the incident at length.

Replays showed no Arsenal player committed a foul on De Gea, and it was in fact his own teammate, Fred, who stamped on him by mistake.

Martin Atkinson was mobbed by Manchester United players before and after awarding the goal

Clattenburg explained there was no way the goal could not stand in light of this, especially as Atkinson did not blow his whistle before Smith Rowe's strike hit the back of the net.

"Martin Atkinson has to give the goal here because what you see is Fred accidentally stamps on De Gea's foot, so therefore it is not a foul by an Arsenal player," the former match official told Amazon Prime Video Sport.

"[Atkinson] doesn’t blow his whistle, and therefore he has to give the goal."

At half-time, Clattenburg added: "I’ve never seen anything quite as extraordinary as this. However, Martin Atkinson is powerless.

"If he’d blown his whistle before the ball has entered the goal it would’ve been more controversial, because Arsenal would’ve been the victims of a disallowed goal.

"The only time Martin Atkinson could’ve disallowed it, if (Jadon) Sancho had won this ball and gone towards the half way line, I’m sure Martin Atkinson would’ve blown. He doesn’t see De Gea down.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Emile Smith Rowe of Arsenal celebrates after scoring their side's first goal with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on December 02, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

"Clearly see Fred stands on De Gea’s foot, Martin Atkinson now moves towards the header of the two players challenging for the ball, so Martin Atkinson isn’t looking at the goalkeeper at this point.

"It’s only now when he’s about to strike it that he’s in the way of the ball that he looks up and thinks, ‘why is De Gea is down?’.

"His feeling will be that there is a foul in the build-up. That’s why VAR's there, you can’t blow the whistle until the ball is in the goal, to give VAR a chance."

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