In the most recent post on our blog, Aaron fires a right cross at Manchester City manager Mark Hughes, who apparently is still sobbing in his pillows over losing the Manchester Derby on Sunday because there was “too much stoppage time.”
Forget that I completely disagree with him, and yes, I’m biased. And it’s a shame for Hughes, a man who served Manchester United so well, for so many years, over two spells at the club, to be reduced to this.
While Hughes rambles on and fails to address the real question – which is how in the @#$% do you let Darren Fletcher score twice on headers in the same game, I thought I’d address another popular bit of genius currently, that being the Guardian story regarding stoppage time in United matches the last three seasons. Read it here and then come back. I’ll wait.
Right then, now, the article attempts to make the case that yes, in fact, United are given the favor of the referees when it comes to needing added minutes at the end to turn around what might be a poor result for the Red Devils.
Hughes in a simpler, happier time.
And if you take the article on its surface without really thinking about it – you’d accept it as gospel, go back to your bars and cry in your ale about how Sir Alex Ferguson pays the refs in wine, money, and God knows what else to earn favor.
I’ve seen the article links in our comments section, so I thought it was worth a shout or two.
In the article, the Guardian claims that over recent seasons, United’s home matches have featured an average of 205 seconds of second-half stoppage time – compared to 210 for Liverpool, 224 for Arsenal, and 229 for Chelsea. Credit to the Guardian for posting information that doesn’t necessarily help its own argument.
For the three full seasons just completed, the Guardian then breaks down stoppage time in United matches at Old Trafford when the club is ahead vs. when the club is losing – with the “findings” suggesting:
The Guardian is very good, I like it very much.
A few points.
First – the Guardian might well be right with regard to United vs. the rest of the league. But based on the information presented, we have no idea.
Here’s the thing. While the Guardian points to differences of approximately 23 seconds in 2006-07, 76 seconds in 2007-08, and 71 seconds in 2008-09, it doesn’t offer any similar evidence for the other three big clubs mentioned earlier in the article and their home matches. While I wouldn’t take any bets that the disparity is larger for any of the other three teams, having that information included could have made for a stronger case.
In addition, only for 2006-07 does it give the number of instances where United were winning or not winning. For the record, the Guardian states United were ahead 15 times entering stoppage time in ’06-’07, and on four occasions United were not winning.
To me, this draws concerns about the math involved. In truth, you would almost expect the stoppage time when United wasn’t winning to be wildly off, because the sample size is significantly smaller than its counterpart. Taking an average of only four instances could certainly produce a wild final number, because one game could have produced much more stoppage time than the other three, perhaps even for valid reasons (read: Sunday). What the study also doesn’t tell you is how often United scored during that time – or hell, if the other team scored.
And that’s the rub for me. It’s not as if extra minutes were played and City were banned by the laws of the game and the God of Soccer himself from scoring. The complaining would be all the other way, in truth, had City scored 5:26 into stoppage time to win 4-3 – and there probably is no Guardian article to talk about. And this post is would be all about telling Ferguson to zip it.
From everything I’ve seen and read, match referee Martin Atkinson got it right – taking in the time lost between the Bellamy goal and the restart, and then the one substitution that was made. If anything, Atkinson maybe even should have let the game play on longer, to account completely for the time between the Owen goal and that restart. Certainly in both instances, the scoring team would have had motive to delay said restart as long as possible.
But it goes with the territory with United, I suppose. Let’s face it, to some, the club hasn’t won a game outright and fairly since 1932. But when another team benefits from a late-on goal to grab more points than perhaps it deserves on the day, be it one or three, I guarantee you that team won’t be giving the points back or asking the league for a replay.
But maybe the Guardian will write about it.