Club Focus – Man Utd – Rooney ban raises questions about the FA

He has scored 10 goals in his last 13 appearances. He has netted twice against Chelsea so far this season and his superb 14-minute hat-trick against West Ham turned the title race on its head. He scored a potential goal of the season against them but the one club who will not be worried about Wayne Rooney coming to haunt them is Manchester City. After his penalty completed his hat-trick at Upton Park last week, Rooney loudly swore into the camera and was subsequently banned by the FA for it. Rooney’s appeal was turned down yesterday and the striker will now miss the FA Cup semi-final against rivals City as well as the league game against Fulham.

The fact that the ban is ridiculous is not in question. A footballer swearing is hardly pleasant but given that this has never been applied as a rule before, the retroactive punishment is bizarre and unfair. As has been pointed out in numerous other articles many sports people have sworn loudly on camera before now and failed to be punished. Rooney apologised immediately after the incident unlike others and yet he has been singled out and punished. Rooney is paid to play football not to be a role model to children. Much as certain sections of the public may wish that he behaved in a more dignified manner, he is not a children’s television presenter, he is an athlete who got caught up in the emotion of the moment but instantly expressed contrition.

Some commentators have raised the issue of what would happen if the FA failed to punish Rooney for his misdemeanour, suggesting that it could set a dangerous precedent of allowing foul language. This misses the issue of how unfair it is to punish a man without warning or precedent. The FA could have handed down a caution and stated very clearly that any future incidents would not be tolerated and would be punished by a suspension. Then nobody could claim that they were not aware of the rules if they swear on television.

Nevertheless the ban has been upheld and United will have to cope without an in-form Rooney for two games. The game against Fulham is at Old Trafford and given that the Cottagers have only won one game all season away from home, the United faithful should still feel relatively comfortable that a combination of Berbatov and Hernandez can give the league leaders all three points against Mark Hughes’ side. However the game against Manchester City is another matter. Rooney has been instrumental in the past few Manchester derbies that he has played in, scoring that wonderful goal earlier this season and grabbing a last-minute winner to decide the Carling Cup semi-final the season before that. United are still capable of beating Manchester City without Rooney but the task just became that much harder. Still, Sir Alex Ferguson will use every instance like this to play up the siege mentality that he uses to motivate his team.

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