Ferguson was renowned for trying to exert pressure on referees during his long reign as United manager and could often be seen pointing at his watch, hinting that there should be a long period of stoppage time towards the end of games when United needed a goal.

The Scot, who retired at the end of last season, wrote in his autobiography that the gesture was intended to create tension for the opposition, but Gallagher has revealed there was more to Ferguson's cheeky tactics than that.

Gallagher, who refereed in the English top-flight from 1992 to 2007, recalled a match at Old Trafford in 1997 when United faced Middlesbrough in a game they desperately needed to win during a tense battle with Arsenal for the title.

"I remember going to Old Trafford at the end of the season. Manchester United had three games that week and I was given the game on the bank holiday Monday," Gallagher told Sportlobster TV.

"It was chucking it down with rain and Fergie pulled me aside and said 'do me a favour, call the game off'.

"I asked why and he said 'There's nowhere else to fit this game in and the Premier League will have to extend the season. We'll have a better chance of winning the match and we'll win the league at Old Trafford'.

"At half time United were losing and the pitch was like a swimming pool. As we came off he said 'I know we're 3-1 down but please call it off, we could do with a hand here'.

"They managed to pull it back to 3-3 and in the last minute Dennis Irwin ran into the box and went down in front of the Stretford End and I only gave a goal kick.

"At full time Fergie sprinted across the pitch and shouted at me furiously. My wife said, 'Fergie had a right go at you about that penalty didn't he'. I told her he hadn't mentioned the penalty.

"She asked why he came tearing across the pitch at me then. The truth is he ran over and asked me if I was going out to dinner that night. I said 'no' and he asked 'why are we leaving so early then?'."

Ferguson's ability to squeeze every last second out of officials when his side were losing has since been highlighted.

With United trailing at Old Trafford under their former boss, an average of 79 seconds extra was played in stoppage-time.

However, this compares to just 40 seconds extra under his successor David Moyes.