During the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Scot has led Manchester United to 37 honours, has received personal accolades from Manager of the Month to Knighthood, and has been labelled one of the greatest managers of the Premier League era, if not the stand-alone candidate. The success of the club has seen them over-take even the once famous Liverpool.
But today, Sir Alex launched a four-letter attack on the FA claiming the club have been unfairly treated. For anyone who may have missed it;
So, the key quote I picked out from the interview was;
“Maybe they will realise how important we are to England instead of treating us like s***.”
So what does this mean? Is Sir Alex calling for preferential treatment? It certainly sounds that way – but, as the rest of the league may say, doesn’t he already?
This blog post will not be a balanced article of all things United, this isn’t an article about how the league are for or against United. This is 100% just me compiling a range of counter-arguments which dis-prove Sir Alex’s arguments. I.e, he thinks they ‘are treated like s***’, I’m going to show them getting the rub of the green.
In my own opinion, I feel Manchester United have a habit of complaining when justice is served; i.e. The Wayne Rooney incident, swearing into the camera – People seemed to forget that Sky Sports pay Manchester United an excess of £40,000,000 a year, to show their games. Sky’s viewership on a weekend lunchtime is of all ages, and the aggressive nature of Mr Rooney’s actions were unacceptable for a pre-watershed audience. The FA would have been sanctioned by BSkyB, as part of the media contract, to warn players of behaviour on the pitch, and had the FA not punished Wayne Rooney, the FA would have been fined by Sky. Simple as that. Many argued “players swear on-screen all the time” – Yes, they do, but never at the camera, never directed at the viewers. That’s the fundamental difference.
Back to the pressing issue, Sir Alex claims that Manchester United are unfairly treated, interestingly, SJA Sports Writer of the Year; Nick Harris, compiled a report on the findings of @timjtlong (twitter), looking into how the league table would look, had all refereeing mistakes been corrected.
An interesting read, though I’ll be the first to admit there is flaws. For example, that table takes into account that all penalties would have been scored, fair – I guess. However, it does not take ‘momentum’ into account, for example;
Blackpool are leading 2-0, when Rafael appears to trip Luke Varney, BBC’s Sam Lyon describes the incident on ‘as it happens (bbc.co.uk/sport);
“I’m sorry, but how is that not a penalty? Blackpool forward Luke Varney looks to have been cleared out by Rafael da Silva inside the box, with the Brazilian nowhere near the ball, but referee Peter Walton waves the appeals away. Varney is incredulous and Blackpool boss Ian Holloway is incandescent.”
The aforementioned table counts that final result as a 3-3, but one would seriously argue that at 3-0 down United are out of the game.
Same can be said for West Brom 1 – 2 Manchester United; in the first 20 minutes Gary Neville is last man and clearly brings down Dorrans;
This time the words of BBC’s Chris Bevan;
“Big, big shouts for a West Brom penalty as Graeme Dorrans latches on to a long ball over the top. He is shaping to shoot inside the area when Gary Neville slides in. Does he get the ball? No. Does get the man? Yes. It should be a spot-kick but referee Chris Foy says no.”
This time, the table allows for 2-2, instead of taking into account the difference 1-0 (scored penalty), plus the sending off of Gary Neville.
Nor does it include the FA Cup, many Liverpool fans remember the 3rd round game at Old Trafford between the sides, where Howard Webb (who incidentally has given Manchester United 5 penalties in 10 matches) awards a penalty for a ‘foul’ on Berbatov when replays showed minimal/no contact.
Additionally, the table does not account for the difference a fair referee would have made to the potential suspension of a player;
Wayne Rooney elbow on McCarthy, should have seen a 3 match ban – Similar to how Alex Song was retrospectively punished for him stamp on Joey Barton, but was not seen. As well as the handball at the Emirates by Vidic should have seen a 1 match ban, minimum, which would have seen the inspirational defender miss the title decider at Old Trafford with Chelsea. Further more, during: Aston Villa 2 – 2 Manchester United, Nemanjia Vidic scores the equaliser for the Red Devils, before going into the crowd to celebrate, a bookable offense, with the Serbian already on a booking the letter of the law demands he be sent off, as was Piquionne by the same referee vs Everton in Jan 2011, and Robben away at Sunderland for Chelsea in 2006. Pivotal decisions in a season, which are clearly inconsistent in United favour, appear to be so blindly missed.
And these decisions are just in 2010-2011.
In 2009, Arséne Wenger coined the phrase ‘Old Trafford-ish’. A phrase which I can best define as; “The decisions that Manchester United get when playing at Old Trafford, the type of decisions that aren’t completely in-fitting with the rules of the game, nor are they expected when at other grounds”, after Darren Fletcher made 11 fouls in a match against the Gunners before being booked, then making around 3 prior to being substituted, also Arsenal conceded this penalty;
Watch Rooney’s leg in the slow motion replay, he’s leaving it into the ground, and forcing the contact. Not to mention the fact he’s booted the ball into Row Z and is never going to get there. As Wenger said; ‘Old Trafford-ish’.
However, that is not the decision Arsenal fans are most bitter about; in 2004, their unbeaten record of 49 games was ended, you guessed it, at Old Trafford in a 2-0 victory for the Red Devils. With the game balanced at 0-0, Mike Riley, who - like Webb (above) had a record of giving penalties – had given Manchester United 7 penalties in his last 7 games at Old Trafford, made it 8 in 8, after awarding a penalty for this;
Make up your own mind if Sol Campbell makes contact.
It is very easy to get carried away in this debate, as a self-confessed Arsenal fan, I do try to maintain un-bias, and I understand there is an element of fortune that goes with any successful side, I just feel the comments of Sir Alex Ferguson can be translated as such;
“Help, we’ve done so much for English football over the last 25 years, and now, this mob from the other side of the City have a lot of money and are buying superstars like they have cheat-codes for Football Manager – we’re the best positioned team to challenge them and if you want this league to be competitive I suggest you help us out to make it so” – Or am I just being really cynical?
To conclude, Manchester United are not unfairly treated, in fact, I believe, had decisions gone a differently last season, and Manchester United not been given the rub of the green like they had been in 2010/2011, they would not have won their record 19th title. Manchester United remain, in my eyes, one of the most favoured clubs in the league.
However, the position that this leaves the FA in is tricky, they have two options;
1) Leave Sir Alex unpunished for his comments, but risk sending out an uneasy message to the football world. This action would be viewed as; “Hmm… we accept your point”
2) Charge Sir Alex. His comments are spiteful, and are leading towards the governing body acting upon them. He is playing mind-games with referees and the malicious nature of the comments threaten the integrity of the game.
Time will tell.
….. And let the barrage of Manchester United fans hate messages begin, direct them all to;Follow @markbritton7
Over and out.