Fergie's Masterstroke Leaves Sparky Searching for Answers

Mo RamziContributor ISeptember 22, 2009

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Manchester City Manager Mark Hughes complains to the Assistant Referee after Manchester United scored the winning goal in injury time during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on September 20, 2009 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Following Michael Owen’s late—ok very late—winner against Manchester City over the weekend, City manager Mark Hughes told the media that he was still looking for an explanation for “why so much [added] time was needed.”

The short answer is that it was because Sir Alex Ferguson induced it.

Many in the media would have you believe that Fergie induced it thanks to his constant badgering of referees, or perhaps that it was a result of a pro-United bias at Old Trafford,

Their so-called "facts" don't tell the whole story.

With so many story-lines emanating from this weekend’s derby, one that has been crucially ignored has been Fergie’s cunning substitution of Anderson for Carrick after Bellamy had put City back on level terms. For it is that—and Martin Atkinson’s literal application of the law—that enabled Michael Owen to find the back of the net so deep into added-time.

As Bellamy’s equalizer was making its way into the United goal, the four minutes of added time that had been indicated by the referee’s assistant were extended by a further 55 seconds to account for the celebrations by the City players.

After all, it certainly is common practice for referees to extend the game to account for late goals and their celebration.

But it was Fergie’s substitution that mandated that Martin Atkinson should add a further 30 seconds to the match—meaning that Owen’s goal crossed the line only one second after the 95 minutes and 25 seconds that represented the required minimum for the match. That, Mr. Hughes, is why so much time was added.

What’s more is that the champions’ detractors believe that this latest incident is just one other example of a long-held pro-United bias in the Premiership. In fact, a "study" in today's Guardian went so far as to "reveal" that United benefit from "added time to turn round home games".

What "facts" did they present to support this?

The Guardian “looked at all of United's league matches at Old Trafford since the start of the 2006-07 season and discovered that, on average, there has been over a minute extra added by referees when United do not have the lead after 90 minutes, compared to when they are in front.”

Having watched all of the 48 matches that the Guardian has chronicled, I was shocked that they failed to mention how much time opposing teams tend to take off the clock when they find themselves in a position to get a result at Old Trafford.

In fact, the 65.82 “additional” seconds that United benefit from hardly seem adequate considering some of the theatrics and gamesmanship that have been on display from some of United’s opponents over the years.

What’s more is that the very same study acknowledges that the average amount of added time awarded at Old Trafford has been less than the average at Anfield, the Emirates and Stamford Bridge over the same period.

How about that fact?