Manchester United are given more injury-time at the end of matches to equalize or score winning goals than their English Premier League rivals, a study has revealed.
As the row over the near seven minutes of added time accorded to United to win the Manchester derby with a last-gasp Michael Owen goal continues, the Guardian newspaper probed the official injury-time statistics. They looked at league matches at United’s Old Trafford ground since the start of the 2006-07 season and revealed that, on average, there has been over a minute of extra time added by referees when the English champions do not have the lead. This is compared to when they are in front, but United have a reputation for scoring late goals on their ways to claiming three straight Premier League crowns. In 48 games when Alex Ferguson’s men were in front, the average amount of stoppage time was 191.35 seconds. In 12 matches when United were drawing or losing there was an average of 257.17 seconds. In mitigation, the study revealed that the average stoppage time added at Old Trafford is below that at the home grounds of top four rivals Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.
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United’s is 205 seconds, compared to Liverpool’s 210 seconds, 224 seconds for Arsenal and Chelsea’s 229 seconds. But it is the disparity between the time added on when United are winning or losing which appears to assert the popular assertion that referees allow the match to continue until the Red Devils either equalizer or score the winner. Manchester City manager Mark Hughes raged over the extra time in the 4-3 thriller on Sunday, speaking of feeling “robbed” as Owen slotted home his winner. The 2007-08 season shows the greatest difference, with an average of 178.29 second added when United were winning, with official stats from Opta showing 254.5 seconds added when they were not. The trend has continued in the first three United home games of the season. In the two matches United have led they have played an average 304 seconds of injury time. On Sunday, referee Martin Atkinson allowed the game to go on for another 415 seconds, despite his fourth official initially indicating 240 seconds should be added.