Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: manchester united

Late, late shows in Champions League

This blog seems to have had a certain bee in its bonnet about stoppage time, with one post, on Manchester United, injury time and the need for reform, proving a popular one.

So, it was interesting to look through last night’s Champions League results and see so many late goals.

In eight games, there were four goals in injury time. Those for Atletico Madrid and Manchester United (them again!) were game-changing.

In total, 12 goals out of the 26 scored in those games took place after the 80th minute. By my rudimentary calculations, that’s over 46 per cent of goals scored in the final stages.

So what does this mean? Without any statistics for games generally as a ‘control’, it’s hard to say for sure. But why let that stop us speculating? Tiredness must be a factor. Games will often open up as they reach their conclusion. A losing side, such as Atletico or United, will push more in the final moments. A side doing particularly well, like Marseille last night, might knock in a few more goals. Maybe this happens more in the Champions League, as qualification is in sight?

Either way, this tiny sample of games shows how important fitness and concentration is, right up to the final whistle. It also shows how important injury time can be to the result of a game, or even to a team’s goal difference. Too important to just leave to the referee, I’d suggest.

There may well be more late, late shows tonight.

Liverpool are one particular exponent of pulling something out of the fire late on. I do, however, wonder if this is one ‘must win’ game too far? I’m not sure pinning your hopes on an injured Torres is the best idea, but then again, even an injured Torres is better than 95 per cent of strikers in the world. If he plays, that is. Here’s hoping…

Manchester United and injury time debate – update

Amid all this talk of glorified rounders, a rare football post!

I just thought I’d flag up that the debate on Manchester United being given more stoppage time when they need it (or not, depending on where you stand) is still in full flow.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and your take on whether referees really help out Manchester United, or if you think it is all a load of nonsense.

United certainly have put on a few late-late shows in their time. Is this just down to them playing right up to the final whistle, or have Alex Ferguson’s watch pointing and post-match rants influenced referees’ judgement?

Comments start here.

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.