Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: alex ferguson

Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1: A match report, of sorts

A wonderful day’s football for me yesterday, as Liverpool thoroughly trounced their rivals Manchester United. It is all the sweeter that United have lived up to their reputation of being poor, undignified losers, with their manager Alex Ferguson imposing a press blackout (even including their own in-house channel) and reports of considerable upset from the United camp over the referee’s performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Sporting Schadenfreude

Sunday was a good day for me.

Not because my team had won. They weren’t even playing, and probably wouldn’t have won even if they had been.

No, Sunday was a good day as Manchester United were knocked out of the FA Cup, 1-0 to Leeds United. This was a result to savour. Manchester United losing, not only to a team two divisions beneath them, but to one of their great historical and geographical rivals too. Wonderful.

Petty? Maybe, but then isn’t most sport pretty petty anyway?

This form of sporting Schadenfreude is not unusual. I’m sure many of us delight in the sporting misfortune of others. I have known football supporters who cannot just revel in their own team’s victory – for it to be a perfect day, all their rivals need to have lost too. Bizarrely, perhaps, there can be just as much joy in seeing another team’s failure as there is in seeing your own team’s success.

As a Liverpool supporter enduring a torrid season, I’m not proud, I’ll take what enjoyment I can get. As trophy after trophy slips away, I end up focusing more on hoping certain teams, such as the aforementioned Manchester United, will start to struggle too. As this season has seen all the ‘bigger’ sides be pretty inconsistent there has been more opportunities than normal for some Schadenfreude. Last season the top four sides lost 17 games in total between them. This season those same teams have already lost 19, with half a season still to go.

Sunday’s result saw yet another Alex Ferguson gripe about injury time, with him labelling the five minutes given as an ‘insult’. I’d suggest that was insulting itself, to the referee and to Leeds United. The arrogance is beyond belief, to essentially suggest that if one or two more minutes had been played Manchester United would have probably equalised. Ferguson should really look closer to home for the reason behind the defeat. His team lost because he picked the wrong side, not because the referee didn’t play a game of ‘next goal wins’. Yet, no sanctions will follow. Respect campaign? What Respect campaign?

Still, Ferguson’s rants do have one upside. Each time he complains about a lack of injury time, or indeed benefits from injury time given, more people visit here, and my post from earlier this year. So, thank you Alex, and thank you Google, for bringing me those people googling “fergusons injury time bitching” and “ferguson complains about injury time”. Much appreciated!

Injury time – time for reform?

I don’t know why anyone was surprised when Manchester united scored a last-gasp winner, in last Sunday’s derby against Manchester City. Just as Alex Ferguson will look at his watch and complain about a lack of stoppage time when things aren’t going his way, time and again his side will score at the death, with the clock run out and the referee musing over when to blow his whistle.

Still, there continues to be something irksome about this.

Twohundredpercent does make a valid point about the semantics of stoppage time – four minutes means at least four minutes, not ‘no more than four minutes’. This is fair enough. The referee can add as much time as he sees fit.

But the Guardian’s analysis of Opta’s injury time stats puts events in a whole new light.

Over the past three years, referees have played more injury time when Manchester United have been behind than when they are leading. Here, finally, is the evidence of what many of us have suspected for many years.

Sure, Manchester United may be deadly in the last moment of a match. Maybe teams waste more time when they are beating Manchester United, to protect their slender lead, hence that added time. But these numbers do suggest more than this. Referees give them more time when they need it – fact. That crowd and that manager, pointing at his watch, are intimidating referees.

What is to be done? Referees need to be stronger. If that is too simple, all managers should be disciplined for making any gestures or comments about time-keeping. Really, any intimidation should be looked at very, very seriously.

If all of this doesn’t work, then have an external timekeeper, or a set formula for stoppage time.

While leaving the amount of stoppage time to the discretion of the referee is lovely in theory, in practice it leaves too much ambiguity. If players and managers knew there would be say, 30 seconds for each substitution, they could take that into account. If a player wastes time, book him, and add 30 seconds (or however long is necessary) to the clock, or at least inform the captains. Then there can be no dark conspiracy theories or nasty surprises.

If referees are more open to explaining their processes, and less susceptible to influence, perhaps we can cut down the ugly scenes of Sunday. And maybe the game will be just a little bit fairer for all.