The 10 most bizarre excuses in footballing history - From Lord Nelson's ghost to ginger ball boys

“Weaselling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals… except the weasel.” – Homer Simpson

Old Trafford. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

If you tuned in to watch Manchester United’s recent home win over Brighton, you may have noticed that things at Old Trafford were a little darker than usual.

No, we’re not referring to Harry Maguire’s defensive skullduggery, or even the gloom of watching their noisy neighbours romp their way to a fifth Premier League title, but rather the swathes of black material that covered the stands in lieu of actual supporters.

Sign up to our World of Sport newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It turns out, however, that this was not simply a cosmetic choice designed to give the Reds an edgy, emo aesthetic.

Incredibly, this isn't the first time that Manchester United have had issues with their kit melding into the background. Back in April 1996, the Reds rocked up to face Southampton at the Dell wearing a shirt that looked like the love child of some TV static and a migraine. By half-time, United were 3-0 down as their players struggled to pick each other out against the hubbub of supporters in the crowd. Sir Alex Ferguson ordered his players to change, and they went on to lose 3-1. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Instead, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed that it was a change made to help his players win matches. No, really.

The Norwegian boss said: "We've looked into this.

"There shouldn't be a reason, really, but some of the players have mentioned that split-second decision you have to make where you look over your shoulder to see if your team-mate is there or not and the red shirt is on a red background with red seats.

"You'll see a change now, if you see the banners around the club it's not red anymore."

The Special One loves a bit of a whinge, so it's no real surprise that he's come out with some cracking excuses over the years. Our personal favourite? His claim that Leicester City's ball boys had given the Foxes an edge when his Chelsea side lost at the King Power in 2015. “They [Leicester City] fought with everything, they defended with everything, and the ball boys were amazing too”, he said at the time. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Bizarre as it may be, perhaps there is some method in United’s interior design madness.

The Reds have won just 54.2% of their home matches this term, with the equivalent away figure coming in at 65.4%.

With that in mind, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the other strangest excuses in footballing history below...

Football's should bounce, right? If not, the beautiful game would be like watching 22 men kick a bag of wet flour around for 90 minutes, and the novelty would wear off that pretty quickly. According to Scottish legend Sir Kenny Dalglish, however, footballs should bounce - but not too much. Back in 1998, Dalglish took his Newcastle United side to non-league Stevenage for an FA Cup tie that would end in a famous draw. The boss' excuse for the Magpies' failure to put the game to bed? Too much air in the match ball... (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Allsport)
A man so prone to disaster that his nickname was Calamity James, David hardly needed any outside interference or extra distractions when it comes to conceding howlers. It was shame, then, that by his own admission he spent much of the late '90s playing PlayStation until the early hours of the morning. "I was getting carried away playing Tekken II and Tomb Raider for hours on end", he said after shipping three against Newcastle in 1997. You'll get square eyes, Dave... (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images)
Playing Spain in 2006 was no easy task at the best of times - let alone if you'd had barely any shut eye the night before. Ukraine found that out to their detriment at the German World Cup, when they were dismantled 4-0 in a game that could justifiably be labelled a "drubbing". The Ukrainians' excuse for their shambolic display that day? A sleepless night prior to the game thanks in large part to some particularly noisy frogs that had taken up residence near their training camp. According to defender Vladislav Vashchuk, it go so bad that he and his teammates decided to go out in the middle of the night and hunt the rowdy amphibians "with sticks". Genuinely. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Even by the lofty standards set on this list, Blackpool's excuse for making a pig's ear of their 1996 play-off tie against Bradford City is a humdinger. The Seasiders threw away a two-goal lead against the Bantams, and subsequently suggested that it may have been the result of a curse from none other than British naval hero and esteemed column-topper Lord Horatio Nelson. You see, Blackpool's boardroom at the time was kitted out in wood panelling made from Nelson's old ship, The Foudroyant. As explained by stadium manager John Turner: "It is an old maritime superstition that sailing folk take exception to anything on their ships being touched, which could explain these strange events”. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)
A true classic of the genre. Joleon Lescott tweeted a photo of a souped-up Mercedes from his official account just hours after he and his Aston Villa had been taken to the cleaners in a 6-0 thrashing against Liverpool. Understandably, many fans were less than happy with this flashy display of ostentation. Lescott's explanation for the blunder? "The tweet sent out from my account involving a picture of a car was totally accidental it happened whilst I was driving and my phone was in my pocket". Sure, Joleon, whatever you say, pal. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Apparently, in Argentina it is considered extremely unfortunate to have red hair. As harsh as that may seem, Sebastien Peratta would be willing to vouch for the hex-like powers of a well-placed ginger. The former Newell's Old Boys saw a 2-0 lead transform into a 3-2 defeat against relegation strugglers San Lorenzo in 2012 after it was alleged that dirty tricks had come into play. Coach Ricardo Caruso Lombardi had sent red-headed ball boy Franco Robledo behind Peratta's goal at half-time, precipitating his side's collapse. All wrongdoing was denied. (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)
Netherlands duo Edgar Davids and Frank de Boer were banned in 2001 after testing positive for banned steroid nandrolone. But how could two international footballers ended up with a questionable substance in their system in such a closely monitored professional sporting environment? Well, according to teammate Bert Konterman, the answer is beef. Spouting his bovine conspiracy theories at the time, he said: "In Holland, a lot of farmers inject cows with nandrolone to enhance the beef and make more money for themselves. I think this is what happened. The Dutch players have had dinner with the national team and probably had beef with a lot of nandrolone in it." (Photo by Ben Radford /Allsport)
In a piece of weaselling straight out of the preschool playbook, Luis Suarez denied any wrongdoing for taking a bite out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder during the 2014 World Cup by arguing that he had in fact fell, tooth-first, into his opponent. The problem, and in retrospect it's a bleeding obvious one, was that the match was being filmed from about a thousand different camera angles and the entire world was watching. But hey, god loves a trier. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)