I can honestly say I am neutral in any fixture between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. I have no great affection for either club.
That said, I suppose it was nice for Tottenham and (their manager Andre Villas-Boas, who was treated rather shabbily by Chelsea, although I could have warned him in advance that that would happen) that they finally broke their Old Trafford hoodoo last night, and in rather thrilling fashion. It takes a bit of bottle to withstand a Man United onslaught at their own ground, and many other teams (including Spurs until recently) would have capitulated under pressure, especially considering the rather long periods of injury time that sometimes get played when the Reds aren’t winning.
So Alex Ferguson’s post-match whining comments with regard to the length of injury time were interesting:
It was disappointing because the record has been fantastic.
They gave us four minutes [injury time], that’s an insult to the game. It denies you a proper chance to win a football match.”
As far as I’m aware, stoppage time was not conceived as a way of providing teams with a chance to win the game or defend long-standing unbeaten home records against rivals. Ferguson seems to misunderstood that, oddly.
Stoppage time is a device to ensure that the full 90 minutes are played. It is at the referee’s discretion how much is played, which is where the constant insinuations that Man U get preferential treatment stem from. It rarely bears much relation to the actual amount of time lost through stoppages, rightly or wrongly.
Of course we could copy the system used in ice hockey whereby the clock only runs for the time the game is actually properly in progress. But I’m pretty sure that no one, including and especially Alex Ferguson, wants to go down that road.
Indeed, Ferguson’s somewhat unguarded comments about wanting “a proper chance to win a football match” are in their own way extremely revealing regarding the function he thinks that injury time performs.
Needless to say, his view bears no relation whatsoever to the rule book and I’m sure if the result had been 3-2 to United going into injury time and Spurs had gone on to win the game Ferguson would have been bemoaning the amount played.
I appreciate that his job is to look after the interests of his club but such a brazen display of self-righteous partisanship is really very unbecoming of a man old enough and experienced enough to know better.
In acknowledging that he expected his team to be given the required time to turn the result around Ferguson has made his detractors arguments for them.