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Oct 3, 2009

Time to end the uncertainty

The Time Lord did it again, Sir Alex Ferguson pulled off another spectacular finale in the time that referees are amassing at the end of games.

• Man Utd 2-2 Sunderland: Late own goal saves Utd
• Bent crushed by United's latest late goal

After the Manchester derby that infuriated Mark Hughes, it was the turn of another United old boy, Steve Bruce, to feel frustrated and angry at the present system of added on time.

There was every justification for the plus four minutes at the end of the game, with so many substitutions, but there was two minutes added on at the end of the first half and I can hardly recall a single injury which necessitated the physio to come onto the pitch.

Surely, with so much controversy over added time, it's time for the Premier League to review the entire structure. The introduction of illuminated boards to inform the fans of the added on time was a step forward, but it is no longer good enough.

There needs to be a "Stop The Clock" inside each stadium where fans, managers and players alike can know precisely when the clock is being stopped, and how the added time is accumulated. This system is custom and practice in most sports in the States, but it is not a structure currently in practice in our national sport.

But that is only a matter of time, as I cannot believe the Premier League won't address this anomaly. It is something that doesn't actually necessitate a change in the laws, merely a slight adjustment so both fans and players can see the added on time for themselves.

I don't believe it was the extent of the added on time that prevented Bruce winning his first match as a manger back at Old Trafford at his 13th attempt; he will never come closer. More significant for me was the dismissal of Untied old boy Kieran Richardson.

Needlessly kicking the ball away, he invited the red card having already been cautioned, and the Black Cats were unlucky to be limited to ten men, inviting United to launch an avalanche of late chances.

Sunderland took the game to United, and that was a pleasure to see Bruce sending out two central strikers rather than trying to "park the bus".

Bruce had told ESPN Soccernet before the game that Darren Bent should be picked for England. It was a timely reminder to Fabio Capello who watched the game and witnessed Bent scoring early on, and looking more of an all-round goalscoring centre-forward than anyone currently at the england managers disposal.

Bent will be in Capello's latest England squad, that is a certainty now. Bent is the top English goalscorer at the moment, and therefore cannot be left out and deserves a starting chance.

Once United hit back with an equaliser it looked certain they would swamp Sunderland, but Kenwyne Jones put them back into the lead in controversial circumstances, and all credit goes to Sunderland for the way they performed.

As for Sir Alex's team, it hardly needs much analysis. They were poor. Simple as that. An off day.

Of course, every time United perform like this, the inevitable result is to suggest that they are nowhere near as potent without Cristiano Ronaldo, or indeed without the energy of Carlos Tevez, mostly coming off the bench to change the course of events.

Sir Alex joins all the other top bosses who have been airing the hairdryer at their players, but the United boss has the fiercest and the original, and his players will be hearing quite a bit about this performance. The vast majority will be fortunate to escape to international duty, but they will find Sir Alex in no mood to forgive when they get back.

Of course there is no one to reprimand Sir Alex. Yet, he will look at himself, I am sure, and realise that he selected the wrong side. Danny Welbeck in a wide role didn't work and he won't try that one again. He left Ryan Giggs out of the 18-man squad to give him a rest, despite him being United's true in-form player.

Bruce also told ESPN Soccernet that you should never question Sir Alex's judgement. Well, this is one of those rare times.

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