Is Vieira right about United penalties?

Is Vieira right?

Eurosport

When United play at home they get some advantages that other teams don't get," Vieira told the BBC.

"When you go to United, Madrid, Barcelona, or Milan, it's always difficult for the referee to go against these kind of teams.

"This is the way it is. It's something the teams who are used to winning get all the time, so we need to win games so we have this advantage in the future."

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson denied that his men are favoured by match officials, claiming that all sides suffer good and back luck.

"It evens itself out over a season and that will never change," said the United boss.

"You get breaks here and there. Every club gets good breaks, bad breaks."

Vieira later distanced himself from his original comments, claiming that the BBC edited out the part of the interview in which he insisted that he did not want to criticise United. He had also asserted that he had not seen the foul on Danny Murphy on Monday night which prompted the story in the first place (that incident will play in the video box above if you're in the UK).

Yet few fans will have been shocked by what the former Arsenal legend said, with many fans of smaller clubs sharing the view that United tend to end up on the 'right' side of close penalty calls - and particularly at Old Trafford.

We decided to look at the stats to see how many penalties have been awarded to the top five sides in the country over the past four seasons to see if there was a discrepancy between penalties they have been given at home, and penalties they've been given away from home since the beginning of the 2007-08 season:

Assuming equal levels of fouling - which should even out over the last five seasons - as you can see, Vieira is right. The 'big' clubs do indeed get more penalties at home - and nowhere is the skewed balance more obvious than at Eastlands!

The trend does appear that less successful clubs get more penalties away from home. Wigan, Blackburn and Aston Villa all got more penalties away than at their home grounds over the same period.

It's also notable that two of the clubs who have been least successful of our list of the big seven, namely Liverpool and Spurs, appear to have received no particular special treatment at home. Newcastle's figures (which exclude their season in the Championship in 2009-10) show however that they have benefited from a St James' Park bonus... at least until this season, when it has mysteriously stopped (they've been awarded just one penalty at home). The superstitious might be tempted to think that the change is to do with their change of stadium name...

The stats only tell part of the story, of course: some stonewall certainties are not given, while at other times marginal fouls receive harsh treatment. So what do you think? Is Patrick Vieira correct to suggest that United invariably get the benefit of the doubt, or is Fergie's assertion that luck evens out correct?

Have your say in the comments box down below.

View Comments