Last week saw the third round of the FA Cuptake place, the round where the big boys join the lower and non-league teams, all in pursuit of a historic Wembley win.
Arguably the biggest tie of the round was between West Ham United and Manchester United. There was a full house at the Boleyn Ground, and it was live on television.
Manchester united scored first with a fine breakaway goal scored by Tom Cleverley. West Ham responded with a James Collins header scored from a Joe Cole cross, the prodigal son who was making his second debut for the Hammers.
The second half saw West Ham take the lead with an almost identical goal to their first. Once again, Collins finding the back of the net from a Cole pin-point cross.
West Ham was comfortable and defending well. The clock was ticking down to ninety minutes. There had been no injuries and no time-wasting. Therefore there would be no extra time.
That’s when my friend said: “West Ham has won it.”
That’s when I realized he had not taken “Fergie-time” into account.
Then the fourth official held up the board with four minutes of “Fergie-time. We both shook our heads in bafflement.
No sooner had we moved into “Fergie-time,” Ryan Giggs found Robin Van Persie with a cross-field ball. He controlled it, beat James Tomkins, and slotted it in to the net for the equalizer.
It was a well taken goal, but a goal that would never have existed if it wasn’t for the twilight world of “Fergie-time.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has spent years, when losing a game in the final few minutes, staring angrily at the fourth official, red-faced and pointing manically at his watch, demanding more time for his team.
His exertions have paid off-Manchester United always get that bit of undeserved extra time, because he has psyched out the officials.
In fact he has done such a good job of psyching out the officials so often that “Fergie-time” has become a byword for incorrect extra time in English football.
Kevin Nolan, the West Ham captain, knows it too:
“Everyone realised it should not have been four minutes. But you will have to ask (referee) Mr Atkinson that, because I am not getting a fine.”
Nolan is right. We do have to start asking the referees that question: Why are you so bewitched and continually caving in mentally to Ferguson and giving him “Fergie-time?”