Ex ref exposes Fergie-time tactics - another thing United are missing ?

Now Sir Alex Ferguson has retired, are referees no longer intimidated to work at Old Trafford?

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher has exposed the behind-the-scenes tactics former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson employed during his tenure at Old Trafford.

While Ferguson was at Stretford, the club's ground lived up to it's Theatre of Dreams moniker as United would often win big. There were also occasions where Ferguson seemingly benefitted from additional play in stoppage time, with 'Fergie-time' becoming a phrase widely-used in the modern footballing lexicon.

In a recent appearance on SportLobster TV, Gallagher revealed that Fergie-time was, of course, something perhaps engineered by the Scotsman himself, alluding to a possible intimidation factor that would be prevalent in referees minds when officiating games in front of Sir Alex at a 75,000 capacity stadium.

'Can you imagine me, ten and a half stone, showing Ferguson who's boss? It doesn't work!' began Gallagher, before recalling one incident where Ferguson was left fuming as he was not afforded the luxury of Fergie-time: 'I remember going to Old Trafford once in 1997, at the end of the season and United had three games that week and I got the one on the bank holiday Monday.

'It was chucking it down with rain, they were playing Middlesbrough and Fergie said 'do us a favour, call the game off'. I asked, 'why' and he said 'there's nowhere else to fit this game in and the Premier League will have to extend the season. I want a massive victory.'

The game went ahead as initially planned and Gallagher continued: 'At half time United were losing 3-1 and the pitch was like a swimming pool. As we came off he said 'I know we're 3-1 down but call it off [I didn't]. It got back to 3-3 and, it was bank holiday, lunch time kick-off and in the last minute Dennis Irwin goes in the box, hit the floor, bang in front of the Stretford End and I only gave a goal kick.

'My wife said, 'Fergie had a right go at you didn't he about that penalty'. I told her he didn't mention the penalty. He ran over and said 'are you going out to dinner this evening?'. I said 'no' and he asked 'why are we leaving so early then?'

Gallagher issued well over 50 red cards during his refereeing days in the Premier League yet only gave one penalty at Old Trafford - and it was against United. However, he acknowledged that there is a human element when it comes to decision-making and that these perhaps can be influenced by a raucous reception; something that is a by-product of working at Old Trafford.

With the retirement of Ferguson and his absence from the touch-line, referees may now feel far more comfortable to give certain decisions, despite the fact the match-going crowd has remained the same.

image: © Paolo Camera

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