When Howard Webb was announced as the referee for this weekend’s fixture between Manchester United and Liverpool, the usual comments about his bias towards Manchester United were made, but is the referee from South Yorkshire really biased towards the Red Devils?
To determine this we have taken a look at every Premier League game that Howard Webb has officiated which has featured either Manchester United or Liverpool since the start of the 2008/2009 season. We have calculated the amount of fouls per match he has awarded to each team, the amount of cards, the amount of penalties and win percentages for each team, and compared these data.
We have also created a head-to-head comparison for the three matches that Webb has officiated between these fierce rivals.
Howard Webb officiating Manchester United games
First of we take a look at Manchester United’s stats with Webb officiating.
As you can see, Howard Webb has taken charge of 21 of Manchester United’s matches since the start of the 2008/2009 season with 8 of them taking place at Old Trafford and 13 taking place elsewhere.
Manchester United have won 14.1 fouls per match at home when Webb has been in charge and lost 12.3 fouls per match compared to winning 11.1 fouls per match and losing 10.1 fouls per match away from Old Trafford. It is not a surprise than Manchester United are awarded more fouls at home as they will have a higher percentage of possession and teams will generally sit back against them.
In total United have won 12.2 fouls per match and lost 10.9 fouls per match when Webb has refereed, winning 1.3 more fouls than they have lost per match.
Webb has given United 2.4 yellow cards per match at home since 2008 and 1.9 yellow cards per match away from home. In total he has given Manchester United players 2.1 yellow cards per match in the 21 matches he has officiated. Webb has also given United two red cards in the 13 away matches he has taken charge of (Nemanja Vidic against Liverpool in 2008 and Cristiano Ronaldo against Manchester City in 2008) showing that he is not afraid to make important decisions in big games.
Manchester United have been awarded 5 penalties by Howard Webb in his 21 matches in charge (3 in their 8 home games and 2 in their 13 away games) while the opposition have been awarded 2 penalties – surprisingly both at Old Trafford.
In terms of results Manchester United have won 100% of their home games, won 54% of their away games and won 71% of their overall games when Howard Webb has officiated.
Howard Webb Officiating Liverpool games
Howard Webb has taken charge of 20 of Liverpool’s matches since the start of the 2008/2009 season – 10 at Anfield and 10 away from home.
Liverpool have won 13.3 fouls per match at home when Webb has been in charge and lost 12.1 fouls per match, compared to winning 13.1 fouls per match away from home and losing 12.4 fouls per match. As you can see, these statistics, home and away are very similar. Webb cannot be accused of being influenced by the home supporters when officiating Liverpool.
In total Liverpool have won 13.2 fouls per match and lost 12.3 fouls per match in Webb’s games.
Liverpool have received 1.2 yellow cards per match from Webb at home and 1.7 yellow cards per match away from home, but have failed to receive a single red card in the 20 matches he has taken charge of.
Webb has awarded Liverpool 3 penalties (1 at home and 2 away) and awarded the opposition 2 penalties (1 at home and 1 away) in the 20 matches he has officiated, which is a penalty to either Liverpool or the opposition every 4 games.
Liverpool have only won 30% of the 20 matches that Howard Webb has officiated, winning 40% of their home games and 20% of their away games. It is also worthwhile mentioning that Liverpool haven’t won any of their away matches that Howard Webb has officiated since the start of the 2009/2010 season.
Comparison and Head to Head
Liverpool have won 1 more foul per match than Manchester United in total when Howard Webb has been in charge but lost 1.4 more fouls per match. Liverpool have also won 2 more fouls per match away from home than United, but United have won 0.8 more fouls per match when playing at home.
Manchester United and Liverpool have both lost a similar amount of fouls per game at home (United – 12.3 and Liverpool – 12.1) while Liverpool have lost 2.3 fouls per match more than United when away from home.
Webb has given Manchester United 0.6 more yellow cards per match than Liverpool in total, 1.2 more yellow cards at home and 0.2 more yellow cards per match away from home. However, Webb has awarded United 2 more penalties than Liverpool and has given both Manchester United’s and Liverpool’s opposition 2 penalties each.
Manchester United have won 41% more games than Liverpool have when Howard Webb has been referee winning, 100% of their home games compared to Liverpool who have won 40% of their home games.
Manchester United and Liverpool have faced each other three times since the start of the 2008/2009 season with Howard Webb as the referee – one match at Anfield and two matches at Old Trafford, with the home side winning on each occasion.
Howard Webb has awarded both teams a penalty in the three matches and sent off Nemanja Vidic in 2008 in the 90th minute for a second bookable offence. Webb has awarded Liverpool 2 more fouls per match in these three matches and given Manchester United 1.4 more yellow cards per match.
Based on these statistics it cannot be claimed that Howard Webb has been more biased towards Manchester United than he has been to Liverpool since the start of the 2008/2009 season.
However, a lot more variables need to be taken into consideration to make a sound conclusion, such as looking at each decision Webb makes for or against United and Liverpool individually and seeing whether these were in fact the correct decisions, although this may be down to interpretation as people will always disagree on the major talking points in big matches.
It would also be important to compare Howard Webb’s statistics to the other referees in the Premier League to see whether Webb awards more fouls and penalties to United than other Premier League referees do. This is something I will be looking into in the coming weeks.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.