"What do you mean you've hurt 'your' knee, it's Liverpool's knee" - Bill Shankly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nostradamus on Liverpool vs Manchester United


Has Ferguson Already Won The Upcoming Manchester United v Liverpool FA Cup Match?

Alex Ferguson has appointed Howard Webb to referee the FA Cup 3rd round clash between Manchester United and Liverpool.

Assuming the game is close, it would be interesting to see when the bookies expect the Manchester United penalty to be awarded - (1-10 mins, 11-20 mins,..., 81-90 mins, 91-102 mins?)

If the match isn't close and hasn't already had a Manchester United penalty and/or Liverpool sending off, expect none of those things to happen. They're not stupid, these guys: no need to make it too obvious that Ferguson exerts huge influence over Webb and thereby helps United win all important matches, when they can't do it on their own.

When Webb is refereeing and United play well and win, Ferguson doesn't need to exert his influence on the referee, as there isn't any need for "unusual" decisions.

When Webb is refereeing and United don't play well and aren't winning, Ferguson needs to ensure Webb will pull out the "any chance I get, I'll award a penalty and/or send an opposition player off" card, thus Ferguson ensures United get the result they need.

Anyone remember Tottenham's visit to Old Trafford in April 2009? 2-0 down in the second half and in the middle of a very tight title race, United were in massive need of "outside assistance". Heurelho Gomes dived at Michael Carrick's feet and clearly diverted the ball away with his hands. Webb gave a life-saving penalty to Manchester United, which changed the entire flow of the game. Spurs crumbled after having dominated up to the penalty and United went on to win the title.

The momentum created by Webb, who later apologised (which is all well and good, but the damage was done), was created, both in the match and in the season.

Jermaine Jenas was so upset at the time that, talking about Howard Webb, he said "One thing which struck me about it was that he didn't even think. It was like he'd already made his mind up when he came out for the second half that he was going to give something".

To be clear, Manchester United are a very good football team - they don't need help most of the time. But if you give one of the best teams an extra 5% advantage (a penalty, a free-kick, the non-awarding of a free-kick to the opposition in a dangerous position etc), especially in tight matches, they will triumph even more often.

And if you think I'm paranoid, read this story in The Guardian:

This is fact - not opinion... Amazing stuff really. Also amazing is how little has been made of the Guardian's story - it seems everyone knows about concepts such as "Fergie Time", but no-one wants to act on it.

I wouldn't quite go so far as to say that referees conspire to help Manchester United, but I would say that Alex Ferguson wields enormous influence in the game, on referees and on the press. This influence puts almost intolerable pressure on referees when they take charge of a Manchester United game.

If that game also happens to be at Old Trafford, with 70,000+ fans yelling at one man to give them a decision, and then certain Manchester United players (especially Nani) throw themselves to the floor as often as possible, especially at corner and free-kicks in a crowded penalty area, referees come under huge pressure to award non-existent penalty kicks.

Therefore, I would also say that football in general needs someone big enough as an administrator to take Ferguson on - as FIFA says, "For the good of the game".

Then we can start on some other topics that are slowly killing our beautiful game.

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Quote of the moment

Defying belief however, is a market Benitez has cornered quite well. The moment you think Benitez is clueless, he defies it by pulling off a result of majesty, like the one achieved in Madrid. The moment he is hailed a genius, he masterminds toothless surrender to a team going nowhere. In the ongoing Anfield power struggle, just when he was cornered by the firing squad, the Spaniard's demise at Liverpool looking practically assured with the ominous suspension of betting by the bookmakers, he squeezes out through a narrow trapdoor and eliminates Rick Parry. Rafa Benitez is Keyzer Soze.
- Just Football blog: The Curious Beast that is Football 28 Feb 2009