Controversy erupted again after last Sunday's 2-1 defeat at Anfield, with two hotly-disputed Mark Halsey decisions handing United an improbable victory against the run of play. Is this just coincidence, or is there a refereeing conspiracy against Liverpool FC?
The only way to establish if referees do actually favour United over Liverpool is to look at the objective facts, i.e. refereeing decisions against both teams over a specific period of time. For the purposes of this analysis, I've looked at:
* All key refereeing decisions in the Premier League era (1992-2012)
* Key decisions = Yellow cards, Red cards and Penalties.
I could've looked at free kicks, corners and offsides too but those decisions have rarely proven to be contentious over the last twenty years. As we saw in Sunday's game, controversy always rages over cards and penalties, so I've focused on those three decisions only.
I also haven't looked at decisions that weren't given. I don't have the time to comb through 41 games looking for decisions that should've been given (!), and in any event, who decides if the decision should've been given? It's too subjective, and thus arguably useless for the purposes of analysis.
As you can see from the figures below, the idea that there is some kind of Man United-led refereeing conspiracy against Liverpool is total nonsense:
* United receive MORE yellow cards than LFC.
* United also receive MORE red cards.
* Liverpool get MORE penalties at Old Trafford than United do at Anfield.
* On average, United receive MORE cards per game (red and yellow) than Liverpool.
With these figures in mind:
* Where exactly is the evidence of a refereeing conspiracy?
* How is it accurate to assert that United are treated better by referees in games against Liverpool?
* Clearly, refereeing in LFC-Man United games is very consistent.
I'll inevitably be accused of being a 'Manc in disguise' against after this post (!) but like most stat analyses I undertake, I don't know what the end result will be until I've compiled all the figures.
There is no Man United refereeing conspiracy, and the sooner that particular facet of the club's embarrassing fan-led victim mentality ends, the better.