What is Fergie Time? Manchester United's history of late goals

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It is an established phenomenon that the Red Devils seem to be awarded a substantial amount of added time when they are losing – but does it exist?

We've all been there. Your team has a slim 2-1 lead going into the end of the regular 90 minutes and you're hanging off of the edge of your seat. You will the match to end then and there until the fourth official pulls out his board and indicates six – yes, six – additional minutes of time.

Each second, let alone each minute, feels like an eon, and you assure yourself that your side can hold on and see the game out. But of course, it happens – the opposition team scores deep into added time, minute 90+5, and your heart breaks. 2-2. It's Fergie Time!

The notion of an over-generous amount of time added was made famous during the reign of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but even following his resignation in 2013, the phrase – and idea – still lingers on. Excessive added time, otherwise known as 'Fergie Time', ideally allows a team more time to score a late goal to clinch a last-minute equaliser or winning.

The term originated from Ferguson's knack of winning games at the death. During his time at Old Trafford and beyond, opposition fans would notice a trend where Man Utd would be gifted a substantial amount of stoppage time if they were not winning or in a losing position – giving them more a better chance to clinch victory.

Th term 'Fergie Time', however, can also be applied to teams other than the Red Devils.

The very first instance of 'Fergie Time' dates back to a fixture in the debut season of the Premier League in 1992-93. Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday were level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, and seven minutes of additional time were given. 

In that time, Steve Bruce scored for the Red Devils to win the game 2-1, which cleared the path for Man Utd's first top-flight title in 26 years.

Ex-Premier League referee Graham Poll has said that when you are refereeing, you do not believe in Fergie time.

"You dispel it as popular myth of teams that are jealous of Manchester United's success," he told the BBC.

But, he admitted, there may be psychological reasoning behind the phenomenon.

"I think it would be too easy to just say it's rubbish. When you analyse and think psychologically what happens, the pressure that's on you at Old Trafford or the Emirates or Stamford Bridge, the pressure that is implied upon you must have an effect, even if subconsciously."

How many goals have Man Utd scored during 'Fergie Time'?

Of course, it is impossible to prove the existence of 'Fergie Time'. But the statistics show that Man Utd have scored more than a handful of goals in added time, with some proving to be vital winners or equalisers.

During Ferguson's time at Old Trafford from 1992 to 2013, his side scored 4.98 per cent of their goals in the Premier League after the 90-minute period, which amounted to 81 goals.

Following his resignation in 2013, however, his former side have since scored 24 league goals in 'Fergie Time' out of 355 total goals (6.76%).

Manchester United Premier League 1992-93 to 2012-13 2013-14 Onwards
Goals 1627 355
90+ Minute Goals 81 24
% Goals 90+ Mins 4.98% 6.76%

How much 'Fergie Time' are Man Utd awarded compared to other teams?

Funnily enough, though it seems as if Man Utd have consistently been awarded a lengthier amount of added time, it is not to say that they have used it to their full advantage.

Their rivals Liverpool, in fact, are the team to have scored the most 'Fergie Time' goals during the Scotsman's reign.

Between 1992 and 2013, they netted 24 90th-minute winners, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton following behind. Man Utd are actually fifth on the list of the most 90th-minute winners scored by a team in that period.

Premier League 1992-93 to 2012-13 90+ Min Winners
Liverpool 24
Arsenal 19
Chelsea 18
Everton 16
Manchester United 16
Newcastle United 14
Aston Villa 12
Tottenham Hotspur 12
Wigan Athletic 12
Bolton Wanderers 11
Blackburn Rovers 10

What are some 'Fergie Time' goals?


Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United

There are a handful of instances of Man Utd winning games after scoring in 'Fergie Time', but one of the most notable is their 1999 Champions League final victory over Barcelona. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham came off the bench and scored two goals in added time to win the game 2-1 at Camp Nou.

In one of the most memorable Manchester derbies in recent history, Michael Owen scored in the sixth minute of 'Fergie Time' to win the game 4-3 for the Red Devils. United were winning 3-2 heading into injury time, but Man City forward Craig Bellamy looked to have netted the equaliser late on in the game. Owen, however, had other ideas.

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Other teams have also benefitted from 'Fergie Time'. Ironically, Manchester City won their 2012 Premier League title after Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero both scored in stoppage time. City needed to win their final game against QPR in order to pip Man Utd to the title via goal difference. Roberto Mancini's side were losing 2-1 going into the final 90 minutes, but two 'Fergie Time' goals ultimately awarded them the Premier League title.

Additionally, Liverpool forward Divock Origi netted in the 96th minute during a Merseyside derby in December 2018 to clinch all three points for the Reds, breaking Evertonian hearts.

More recently, Man Utd took advantage of 'Fergie Time' without the presence of Ferguson when they staged an incredible comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16. With the scoreline 3-2 on aggregate going into stoppage time in the second leg, Marcus Rashford converted a 'Fergie Time' penalty to win the tie through away goals, eliminating PSG.

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