Have you heard the one about QPR giving Manchester City the ball in a massive conspiracy to prevent Manchester United from winning the title?
If not, I think you might like this.
In the closing minutes of the 2011-12 Premier League season, Manchester City scored two dramatic goals to clinch the title. Their opponents that day, QPR, intentionally gave away possession when the score was 2-2 in added time. Moments later, City went up the other end and scored. Conspiracy theorists are convinced QPR threw the game. But did they?
To help me deep dive into this story, I’m calling upon the following people:
- The alleged culprit: Jay Bothroyd
- The conspiracy theorist: Wayne Rooney
- The (possible) truth-teller: Mark Hughes
- The eyewitness: Jamie Mackie
- The verdict: Myself
Get the popcorn ready. This is one hell of a story!
First, let me set the scene.
Premier League 2011-12 last day of the season
It’s a glorious day in May. Manchester United have beaten Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. With Manchester City losing 2-1 at home to QPR, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are minutes away from winning yet another Premier League title. Or so they think.
City, in need of two late goals, grab an equaliser with 91:14 on the clock through an Edin Dzeko header. Within 44 seconds, the ball is out the net and back in the centre circle ready for QPR to kick off again.
Now this is where things get a bit suspicious.
The clock is at 91:58 when QPR striker Jay Bothroyd does this:
Instead of finding a teammate, Bothroyd launches the ball out for a City throw-in. Joe Hart immediately throws the ball back into play to Gael Clichy, who races forward unchallenged.
The hosts briefly lose possession (to City legend Shaun Wright-Phillips of all people) before Mario Balotelli finds Sergio Aguero. On 93:20, the Argentine rifles a low right-footed strike past QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny to make the score 3-2.
- Is Frank Lampard A Genius? (He’s Basically Einstein!)
- Arsene Wenger Coat: Why We Loved It But He Didn’t
- When Did Man City Become So Good?
City, now level on points with United, seal the title thanks to their superior goal difference.
A stupendous moment for neutrals, but not for this man…
Wayne Rooney has a QPR conspiracy theory
The 2011-12 final-day hero turned out to be Sergio Aguero, but it could so easily have been Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United great scored his team’s goal in the 1-0 victory at Sunderland, meaning he would have stolen the headlines instead of Agueroooo if QPR held on for a few more minutes.
In a 2022 interview with The Sun, Rooney did not pull any punches when he was asked about that famous day. He took a dig at Paddy Kenny’s goalkeeping and raised doubts about Jay Bothroyd’s peculiar kick-off strategy.
“Paddy Kenny should have done better for a couple of the goals,” Rooney said. “City get the second goal and QPR kick it straight back to them and that’s never been questioned. I find that strange.”
The England legend was also left wondering why QPR striker Djibril Cisse was part of Manchester City’s post-match title celebrations.
“Djibril Cisse celebrating after the game with the City players,” Rooney added. “But yeah, listen, it’s a historic moment in the Premier League, so I’m sure that, if you are not involved as a Manchester United player, that’s probably one of the greatest moments in the league.”
Sidenote: Joey Barton, a former Manchester City player, received a red card in the 55th minute. The QPR midfielder was sent off after elbowing Carlos Tevez in the face. On his way off the pitch, he also kicked Sergio Aguero and tried to aim a headbutt at Vincent Kompany.
This moment of madness didn’t go down too well with QPR and the FA. Barton was given a 12-match ban, fined £75,000, docked six weeks’ wages and stripped of the captaincy.
Moving on, enter the (possible) truth-teller…
Mark Hughes explains why QPR kicked the ball out
Mark Hughes is a key man in this story. Not only was he the QPR boss, but he used to manage Manchester City and play for Manchester United.
Amid the madness of City’s equaliser, QPR avoided relegation from the Premier League after Bolton Wanderers could only draw 2-2 with Stoke.
Due to his association with United as a player, Hughes wanted his former team to win the title instead of City.
“At that point I wanted to make sure, because United were up the road obviously waiting on the result. I’m thinking, ‘I wouldn’t mind United winning, if I’m honest,'” the Welshman told The Coaches Voice in 2020.
After Dzeko’s equaliser, Hughes instructed Jay Bothroyd to kick the ball down the pitch. That way City would have hardly any time left to launch another attack.
“So I’m thinking we’ve just conceded the second goal, it’s 2-2,” Hughes continued. “I think it was Jay Bothroyd who looked over and said, ‘What do you want us to do?’
“Because the players had obviously understood that the game was over and we’d stayed up. We just said, ‘Just kick it as far as you can, right in the corner, the game’s over.'”
Needless to say, the plan spectacularly backfired.
The eyewitness: Jamie Mackie
If conspiracy theorists don’t believe Mark Hughes, maybe they’ll listen to Jamie Mackie.
The former Scotland international was a QPR player that day. In fact, he scored the goal that made it 2-1.
Contrary to what Hughes thought, Mackie claimed a few months after the game that QPR players didn’t know they were safe from relegation in those memorable final few minutes.
“I couldn’t have done anything about the [Aguero] goal and the other lads further away didn’t actually know,” he told Mirror Sport.
“Everyone keeps saying we took our eye off the ball because we knew, but I don’t think that’s the case.”
QPR took another kick-off once the celebrations from Aguero’s goal died down. Even though his team were losing 3-2 at that point, Bothroyd once again kicked the ball into the corner straight back to City.
Verdict: Did QPR throw the game?
I’ve forensically analysed the last few minutes of the match, and I strongly believe that…
No, QPR did not throw the game against Manchester City. Jay Bothroyd kicked the ball into the corner because Mark Hughes wanted to stop City from grabbing another goal. The further Bothroyd kicked the ball, the less chance City had of scoring.
I think Wayne Rooney has every right to express doubts. After all, like most conspiracies, we’re still left with an unanswered question here.
Bothroyd kicking the ball into the corner with the score at 2-2 made sense, but why do it again at 3-2? Giving the ball straight to the opposition is a little odd regardless of how many seconds are left in the match.
With that being said, there just isn’t enough evidence out there to make me believe QPR purposely allowed City to score those two late goals.
After much deliberation, I’m left with no choice but to find QPR not guilty of all accusations.