Sir Alex Ferguson

 There has been a debate in recent days between Sir Alex Ferguson and former Arsenal captain and Manchester City player, Patrick Vieira about decisions involving the top two teams and in particular a possible favouritism at Old Trafford for the home side.

However, it’s hard to fault Vieira’s theory when you learn that United have received four penalties since Boxing Day in home matches and a further two in the tie at Stamford Bridge in February. That’s seven penalties in thirty matches. Ferguson states that decisions can go either, an infamous example is England’s phantom ‘goal’ in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany and Frank Lampard’s goal that should’ve been given at the 2010 World Cup in the knockout stages against Germany.

Ferguson stated the example of Mario Balotelli at home to Tottenham Hotspur. The scores were levelled at 2-2 when it seemed that Balotelli stomped on Scott Parker’s head. Although not visible in real time, on the replayed footage courtesy of Sky Sports, it was clear to see that the young Italian should’ve been punished for the stomp.

Yes, Fulham should’ve been awarded the penalty on Monday night when Michael Carrick tripped Danny Murphy in the final few minutes. On the other hand, Balotelli should’ve been sent off for his stamp but then if it wasn’t galling enough for Harry Redknapp and Tottenham Hotspur, he nonchalantly stepped up and converted a last minute penalty to win a close contest in Manchester that City won 3-2.

I do believe that decisions come and go for a particular team but there is always a penalty shout for every football match played. Manchester City might have been awarded a penalty at Stoke but then again United might have been awarded a penalty in the first half for handball, no matter how unlikely.

United have seen three penalties awarded to the opposition team this season – all at Old Trafford. One of those in controversial fashion as Rio Ferdinand’s cleanly won tackle resulted in a Newcastle penalty, consequently costing Ferguson’s team two points in the title race.

Only West Bromwich Albion have conceded more penalties at home than Manchester United at just one further whilst their Manchester rivals have also conceded three penalties – disproving Vieira’s fact.

The retired French legend stated that at places like Madrid, Barcelona, Milan and Old Trafford it is a lot harder to win penalties.

Five in 14 might be a lot of penalties but no way is there any favouritism for United in this respect. When you look at Manchester City, they have netted six penalties at home this season – one more than their rivals and two of which against top clubs.

Not that I am trying to slap the favouritism label on the Etihad Stadium but a stoppage time winner against Spurs and a late leveller which went onto make a big difference against Chelsea smacks more of favouritism than having three of the five penalties awarded to United in matches that were already won.

I admit that in a two-match period, United won four penalties in two games – two which won a match at home to Stoke whilst two penalties against Chelsea which helped them claw back a three-goal deficit.

When it comes to Manchester City on the road, they have yet to be awarded a penalty with five more away matches to play which means United have won one more penalty across the entire season. However, United scored only one penalty at home last season so the average is lowered.

So Vieira, decisions aren’t biased towards the champions, just spread out evenly across a season. Just look at the statistics.