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August 2021

Ref Review 2012/13: Manchester Utd gain highest positive bias in the League

By Walter Broeckx

This article is part of the series of the Referee Review 2013. You can find links to earlier articles on the bottom of this article.


In this part of the series we have a look at each team and see how the bias panned out for each team. This is based on the decisions themselves without putting any weight on each decision. A total table will be published at the end of this series and then you can compare each team with the other teams.

And it will be an interesting table I can assure you of that.

First we are providing a table for each team highlighting each type of decision. This gives the totals as for when the team in the article got a favourable decision and when they got it against them.

If the traditional mantra, “it all evens out at the end of the season” is true it should show in these statistics – and indeed for some clubs we have already reviewed, that is the case.

But as I said, in the table we just show the decisions as a decision and we didn’t put any weight on the decisions. That is something for later on. Now we just take each decision at the same value, which is of course not saying all because a wrong penalty call is a bit more important than a wrong throw in decision.

But now let us move to the next team in our survey:  Manchester United

All the games we covered were analysed by qualified referees, drawn from a wide range of clubs.   Details can be found on the Referee Decisions site (see below).

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We were able to do 29 games and that is 76,32 % of their total games in the PL. I think this is a high enough number to draw some firm conclusions. The chance that what we find in this table would have been reversed completely in the other 9 games looks rather small. But people who disagree can always try to convince us by giving us some extra analysis and evidence. Our evidence can be found on the website

manchester united

In the second column we see the type of decision. And in the column “Favoured” we see how many decisions favoured this team when we reviewed them.  In the column “Penalised” we see how many times a wrong decision went against them.  The total swing is the difference between the favoured decisions and the penalised decisions.

A negative number in this column means that the total was against the team and a positive number means that the total decisions was in their favour.

In the last column we see the average swing per game, based on the games we reviewed. And this gives an indication on how many decisions went against a team or were in favour of a team. The lower the number the lower number of decisions that were wrong. And a positive number indicates that in each game they get some decisions in their favour and a negative indicates how many decisions the team has to overcome.

We had a total of 334 wrong decisions in the 29 games we did with Manchester United.  That is more than 11 wrong decisions per game, almost 12. This is again rather high and certainly too high for my liking.  But we have seen worse things this season so after a while you get used to it.  But more importantly now is to see how the dividing was of those wrong decisions.

Of those 334 wrong decisions we had 236 in their favour and 98 going against them. The difference is a staggering 138 decisions in favour of Manchester United. And I can tell you by now that this is the highest number of decisions in favour of any team.   Let us have a look at the decisions  in detail to see if we can see some strange things.

Well the only type of decisions that went against Manchester United was the advantage decisions. With 1 (one) decision more against them than in their favour this is not much of course. But that is the only type of decisions where Manchester United could argue that they have been badly treated over the whole season.

If we look at the decisions that went in their favour we see that these are all the other decisions. The margin for the not that important decisions like corners, goal kick and offside are rather small. The decisions like throw in and corners are already on a higher level.

And if we go to the decisions of free kick/foul we see that there is a big big big difference (or bias) in favour of Manchester United.  Also if we look at the goal decisions we see that this very much in their favour.  The penalties are also in their favour but we must point at the fact that they had some decisions going against them also. But still the overall score on those decisions is clearly in favour of Manchester United.

It looked as if the referees did all they could to make sure that last season would go to Old Trafford.  Maybe in a secret agreement to give him the 20th title and then to see the manager disappear and take his influence away from the game? Who knows.  This season will be interesting and we will be keeping an eye on this of course.

Manchester United was probably the best team in the league, but the refs didn’t do much to make life difficult for them.

Editorial note: if you want to comment it is perhaps worth having a look at some of the background to this research in the articles below, if you have not come across Referee Decisions before.  We did have a situation in which supporters of various teams have not done this, and made comments which, in retrospect they maybe wish they hadn’t

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12 comments to Ref Review 2012/13: Manchester Utd gain highest positive bias in the League

  • Nizam

    That is why they will continue to win the epl for the next one hundred years. Wenger thought he had the measure of OT
    by moving to the ES. Arsenal’s gate receipts are not not that far off from the rd.
    The trick is keep on winning thereby garnering more sposonships. Wenger ‘s failure was he thought playing fancy soccer but overlooked winning and winning ugly.
    As for the refs,enough has been said.I get satisfaction that although red faceless MU can dominate in England,they can’t in the cl. And that is a constant joy to me.

  • Gerry Lennon

    What a surprise!

  • It appears that SAF’s last hurrah was nailed on – why am I not surprised?

  • Philip Kumwenda(malawi)

    I totally agree with what is said above.I think the refs were afraid of Sir Alex e.g. yesternights game had it been the manager was the so called Sir we could have seen dubious penalties. Good ref.

  • So its true Mpesa works as is widely aclaimed? I hate MU 4 life.

  • Pat

    Interesting that again the figures from the referees reviewing the matches confirm what many fans of a number of teams believe – that Manchester United has been favoured.

    Jose Mourinho said recently that Manchester United, although winning the league last season, was not a star team like Arsenal Invincibles or his teams of 2005 and 2006.

    The press countered that by quoting the high points count Manchester United had last season.

    Now we can see that a lot of those points came from poor refereeing decisions in their favour.

  • bjtgooner

    Why are we not surprised?

    The high disparity in reds and yellows is interesting – but such a disparity must have a knock on effect – the message is almost – if you tackle a Man U player you will get booked. It would be interesting to see if any particular player was being protected more than the others.

    The disparity all evens out in the end – or does it?

  • para

    Manu is the “vorzeige” team, that is, the team that UK presents in it’s showroom. There can be no bad publicity brought near to Manu, the whole media has to follow orders on this, the PL also, else there will be trouble. This will not change, no matter who is manager. I myself know of one thing that has been kept out of the news, because it was Manu, and a blanket was pulled over it. It concerned Giggs, early on in his career, but enough said on that. So i guarantee that there will have been other incidents with other players etc, etc. They should not win PL this season, although this outside influence may decide otherwise. The CL is their target, and sticks in their throat, as they have not got any influence there. But as money plays a bigger and bigger role, they are gaining more and more influence in CL also.
    I like most other teams, even spuds when playing against manu, but i detest manu. Somehow they remind me of one of those Old Boy Clubs with “closed ranks” and all that.

  • dan

    Bias for manchester utd, who would of thought!

  • Va Cong

    Was it true they never got a penalty given against them at old trafford to us not getting a penalty to us at the emirates at all last season?

  • Mark

    It does not seem to me that much is going to change with SAF not being the manager – he is still involved with the club and still part of the PGMO. This bias toward ManU has been consistent over the past several years. Thanks UT for doing the research to prove it over the past two seasons!

  • @DogFace

    It was supposed to be nailed on the year before. Obviously he emptied his political bank account of favours this time around.

    I am going on the record to predict Utd won’t get nearly so much tilt this time.

    Can you believe Atkinson was reffing at Old Trafford for Chels?

    That never would have happened under SAF.