“How important we are to England” – Manchester United.

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 2 – 3 Manchester United

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;

Gary Neville brings down Dorrans as the Baggies man is 1 on 1.

“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.

Vidic celebrating just before entering the Away Section at Villa Park.

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;

Sir Alex gives the 4th Official his opinion.

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;

Over and out.


About the12thman

A twenty-something football fan with two business management degrees. I run @_the12thman because my friends told me I talk about football too much on my personal twitter/facebook. Turned out quite well, 2 years on. View all posts by the12thman

4 responses to ““How important we are to England” – Manchester United.

  • Jack_em

    nice work dude its a good write up and interesting read, even if it is rediculusly biased.. “tried to stay un-biased” is laughable, but still a good blog.

    But you have pointed out decisions which have gone in Uniteds favour because thats the subject, but you could do that about loads of teams, and find clips where they’ve cheated or scored an offside goal, it just doesnt affect mid table teams so much, but because united are always near the top it is talked about more.

  • Karan Gurbaxani

    what about mireles’ middle finger incident?
    what about Gervinho diving against newcastle for a pen? + rooney didn’t leave his foot planted it was very much a fair decision

    PS: Manchester United are never out of a game.


    • markbritton7

      Meireles middle finger incident wasn’t widely known, in fact.. I watched the game and missed it. The same aggressive nature was not present. Also, I think you need to watch the Gervinho incident again, it was a clear penalty, even if he did make a lot of it – you see his ankles were clipped.

      Finally, watch the video, he’s trying so hard to plant his back foot that he digs up the turf.

      You my friend, are arguing without support to back it up, and you are painfully wrong.

      But thanks for the debate! Follow my twitter @markbritton7, where a lot more debate is on going! Thanks.

  • Peter_Millicov

    Good read Mark and some good points made.

    Completely agree with the roony swearing issue that deserved to be punished and he was (so no preferential tretment for United there).

    I think the whole idea of “what the league would look like with no mistakes” is interesting but in truth holds little value (although i can see why an Arsenal fan might like it based on the findings!). If we continued with this type of hypothetical argument we could end up with some ridiculous points.

    As to wether incorrect decisions balance out over the course of a season this is debateable and subjective to each team. What i will say is like the 2-3 game at Blackpool you can only applaud teams for making the most of refereeing decisions and completing a fightback such as this. If i was a Blackpool fan in that game or an Arsenal fan when the invinciples were finally beaten i would look at my own teams performance / defending / weaknesses and debate that.

    This was my first thought when United were held to a 1-1 draw with Newcastle in Novemeber after an obviously incorrect penalty decision…United had 25mins and eventually an extra man and couldnt find a winner – that was the real issue not that the opposition were helped by the Lino.

    You mention the fact that referees have consistently awarded penalties at Old Trafford but lets be honest im sure United dominated those games and so with more posession in the oppositions final third and opposing teams going on the pitch and parking the bus i front of goal United are far more likely to get these decisions due to this fact. Im sure almost all teams in the PL are awarded more penalties at home than away throughout the season.

    As for diving in general i think most fans of the PL would like to see less of it, as a United fan im the first one to criticise United players (Nani) for doing this but again im certain examples could be made of evey team so it is un-just to single out United. Take Arsenal for instance and the Eduardo dive vs Celtic in 2009. Like Feruson here, Wenger made his feelings heard and gave some emotive statements to the press and the identical article could have been written about Arsenal following that incident.

    so in general i think it is unfair to single out United as having everything their own way as i think you could make an argument like this about most PL teams.

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