Piling on about stoppage time

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.


6 thoughts on “Piling on about stoppage time

  1. Disregarding the Guardian’s stoppage time article (which i linked to on the previous blog post), i would like to know how the f**k Man Utd get six (iirc) penalties against them from the start of the Premiership till 02.

    “only four opposition players have taken penalties at Old Trafford since the start of the Premiership (including Fox). “Muzzy Izzet, Juninho and David Dunn are the players that missed,”

    As you can see from the link http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2…nowledge.sport favoritism (in one form or another) to Utd has been mentioned since the Premiership started and the penalty stats seem to say there is in my opinion a case to answer. even more so when you see the theatrics some of the Utd players have been guilty of over the years.

    One rule for some and one rule for the rest.

  2. Here in NY/NJ area, MSG network does a EPL review show. They looked at the stoppage time controversy, with stop-watch & rule-book in hand, and it clearly shows the ref was correct.

  3. While there are some “guidelines” with respect to how much time to add, there are no hard rules about it. So the review show’s claim that “according to the rules” the referee was correct is overstating the case.

    My guess would be that every home side that is trailing gets a little more time added no matter who they are.

    Until we go to a clock that gets stopped a la highschool rules it will always be a pretty wild guess with respect to how much time is “lost” due to delays, etc. How much time ever gets added when it is clear one team is wasting as much of the clock as they possibly can? That’s when referees should be adding time but the amount added is almost never anywhere near what is “lost” throughout the course of a half.

  4. … When Man U is tied or losing, their players probably do a lot more laying about, stalling the game, than they would if they were ahead. That would add to the injury time.

    This controversy could be avoided if there were a clock that showed when ref suspends time for an injury. What was on that clock for all to see would be the stoppage time.

  5. huh? if they are tied or losing why would ManU waste time? They need to score at that point. Generally teams in the lead or who are happy with a draw are the ones wasting time.

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