Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received all the kudos for reviving Man United’s season and pulling them back into Champions League contention, but maybe fans should be praising VAR rather than OGS.
That is because no Premier League team has benefited from Video Assistant Referee decisions more than Manchester United this season. With VAR, Solskjaer’s men are fifth in the table, on 45 points, which is five points and five places better than they would be without it.
In a world without VAR, Man United drop from a Champions League position in fifth — the top four qualify, but due to Man City’s European ban, fifth is in play — to the mid-table obscurity of 10th, making them the lowest-placed of “Big Six” clubs and just about holding onto a spot in the top half.
Meanwhile, runaway leaders Liverpool have gained just two points from VAR overturns; with a 25-point lead, Jurgen Klopp’s team has played so well as to render VAR irrelevant to their title ambitions. Second place Manchester City have lost five points due to VAR decisions, but still remain 18 points adrift (our previous update had the gap at 13 points).
Those headlines are among the results of analysis from ESPN and the team led by Thomas Curran at the London School of Economics, whose Anti-VAR Index shows how the league would look without video review.
Their algorithm is about more than simply removing goals to get the amended results; it takes into account factors such as the state of the game at the point of the VAR incident in question, plus a team’s form, performance and relative strength, which generate a new set of results based on probability of outcome.
VAR helped Man United gain a point from likely defeats against Liverpool and at Everton, and also led to victories at Man City and Chelsea.
Liverpool fans will remember Sadio Mane having a goal disallowed for handball at Old Trafford, a game that ended in a draw, but the Anti-VAR Index rules as an away win. Man United were drawing at Man City until Marcus Rashford won a penalty after a review; our algorithm rules they would have lost that game without VAR.
What of Chelsea having two goals for Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud disallowed as Man United won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge? That becomes a draw. Then there’s Everton’s injury-time “winner” at Goodison Park when the VAR ruled Gylfi Sigurdsson was offside and obscuring the view of David De Gea. The game finished as a draw, but the Anti-VAR Index says Everton win.
Man United have had only one VAR decision given against them — only Newcastle, on zero, — have fewer, and lead the way in:
- Net VAR overturns (decisions in favour – decisions against): 8
- VAR overturns in favour: 9
- Net goals (goals awarded by VAR – goals conceded by VAR): 6
- Goals disallowed by VAR: 0
- Subjective decisions (opinion-based, such as red cards) in favour: 6
- Subjective decisions against a club: 0
As for those hardest done by, spare a thought for West Ham, who would be six points and three places better off without VAR decisions. They are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference, but when you strip out the league-leading nine VAR decisions that have gone against them, they open up an eight-point gap from the drop zone and are secure in mid-table.
Everton are not far behind the Hammers. Re-run the results and add five points — two points from the Man United game and three from a VAR-influenced loss at Brighton, when they were in front before a controversial penalty — they are in seventh, only four points behind Wolves and in the mix for Champions League qualification.
Only Brighton have benefited from VAR as much as Man United, and the loss of five points sees the Seagulls slump from 15th to 19th, three points adrift of safety. That enables Aston Villa (+2 points) to climb out of the drop zone with a game in hand, leapfrogging Bournemouth (-2).
Leicester (-1) and Chelsea (+1) have barely been affected and remain third and fourth, respectively. Wolves (+3) move up a place into fifth and that Champions League berth, where they sit within three points of Chelsea. Sheffield United also climb a place into seventh and would be two points behind Wolves with a game in hand if you apply our anti-VAR formula. Archrivals Arsenal (+1) and Tottenham (-1) switch places in eighth and ninth.
Here is a look at all VAR stats:
Total overturns: 88
Leading to goals: 22
Disallowed goals: 46
Penalties awarded: 16 (8 missed)
Penalties retakes: 4
Goals ruled out for offside: 28
Goals awarded after incorrect offside: 8
Goals ruled out for handball: 10
Goals allowed after wrong handball: 2
Red cards: 6
Overturned red cards: 3
Most net decisions: Man United 8
Most net against: Sheffield United 6
Most involvement: Leicester City, West Ham 13
Most decisions for: Brighton, Man United 9
Against: West Ham 9
Fewest overturns in favour: Aston Villa 1
Fewest overturn against: Newcastle 0