• Brett Rosenheim

VARchester United

VAR was brought into the Premier League to ensure the right calls were being made with efficiency, without hindering the flow of the game as we know it – ‘minimal interference, maximum benefit’. As the season progressed, however, many fans began to notice the inefficiencies of the system, namely the supposed biases toward particular clubs, and thus, the nickname ‘VARchester United’ was born.

While it is true that Manchester United have benefitted more than any top flight club from the implementation of VAR this season, unique ‘URef’ insights and data suggest that United’s reputation does not deserve to be tainted and their front 3 of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood deserve to be praised for their fluidity and movement in the final third.

It is not ridiculous to suggest United have been helped by VAR this season. URef data exclusively reveals they are the most fortunate team in the league, with a substantial 27 VAR reviews going in their favour and just 12 key calls going against them - thus boasting the highest ‘URef Team Fortune’ differential in the league with +15 on key calls.

Furthermore, United set a record this season for the most penalties awarded in one season with 14(!), to which rival fans will attribute Bruno Fernandes’ scintillating start to Premier League life. Despite this record, URef users believed that 86% (12/14) of these penalties should have stood, with each of the 12 approved ‘Fan Jury’ polls averaging an approval rating of 70%.

Another URef statistic that is a direct indication of fan sentiment toward calls is Ref Sentiment. The average URef Sentiment rating is 56.77%, meaning URef users agreed with just over half of all Premier League key calls this season, a startling statistic considering the motivation to implement VAR was to ensure the right calls were made on a consistent basis! Based on the data of all Manchester United games, URef can reveal that Manchester United have their own Sentiment rating of 64.84%, 8% higher than the average Referee Sentiment rating. Hypothetically, if it was simply one referee officiating all Manchester United games, that referee would have the 3rd best URef Sentiment Score of all referees in the Premier League!

URef has devised a breakdown of all Key Decisions given (and not given) for each team this season. Below is a comparison of a relevant selection of Manchester United’s data compared with the rest of the league.

As expected, the Penalty statistic for United is a clear outlier, however most of the other figures are relatively in line with the 19 other Premier League squads.

United were one of 4 teams who did not receive a single red card this season, while they have also seen a significant number of goals/non goals overturned. Among these overturned goals in United’s favour was Sadio Mané’s strike at Old Trafford that was ruled a handball by the Senegalese forward prior to him finding the back of the net. 72% of URef users agreed with the call and believed Mané’s goal should not have been awarded.

An Oliver McBurnie equaliser in the 93rd minute to make it 3-3 was questioned for possible handball, however the goal stood and United subsequently dropped points in 3 of their next 5 Premier League games. A massive 62% of users believed the goal shouldn’t have stood!

While VAR has played somewhat of a ‘helping hand’ to the Red Devils this season, credit must go to the coaching staff and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for the way United attacked with menace and purpose this season, especially after the restart. Their quick passing play and unpredictable movement between the defensive lines caused havoc for all Premier League defences, it’s no wonder they found themselves at the penalty spot so often this season!

*Data Source: URef EPL App

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