There’s been a lot of talk in the past week about footballers as role models. But the key issue for me stemming from the Rooney abuse incident is not the behaviour of the United striker himself, but that of his manager.
In defending Rooney and accusing the FA of “having it in for United”, Sir Alex Ferguson should be facing a charge of bringing not just the game into disrepute, but also Manchester United and his knighthood.
Any respect I had for the United manager evaporated in the wake of his pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible behaviour of his star striker’s expletive-laden tirade to the TV viewing public, following his hat-trick against West Ham.
Condemned by leading figures throughout the game and society as a whole as setting the worst possible example to youngsters and offending millions of viewers around the globe, Rooney should have received the notorious hairdryer treatment from his supposedly hard-man boss.
But Ferguson revealed a cowardly side to his nature and took the easy way out. In doing so, he totally ignored his responsibilities as manager of one of the world’s greatest sporting institutions.
Rather than risk causing a rift with his star striker, he attempted to divert attention away from the foul-mouthed rant by blaming anyone other than Rooney himself. Since when has it been wrong for a player to swear in a game, asked Ferguson, choosing to totally ignore that Rooney actually sought out the camera to deliver his filth?
United’s most successful manager of all-time, then accused the FA of being biased against his club for swiftly, and to wide acclaim, banning Rooney for two matches.
If Rooney has been punished for setting a bad example to kids, what then of Sir Alex? It would be fascinating to hear the thoughts of Sir Bobby Charlton and other directors of Ferguson’s image-conscious club. Their silence on the matter suggests they too are uncomfortable with the behaviour of Rooney and their manager.
Privately, of course, Sir Alex would no doubt justify his defence of his leading goal-scorer by believing that standing up for his players, however unacceptable their behaviour, is good man management because it unites the dressing room and ultimately produces results on the pitch.
But in adopting such a stance, the United manager did untold damage to the reputation of his club around the world, to the game as a whole and to his own good name. Meanwhile Rooney has been encouraged to believe that he’s done nothing wrong, when a club fine and condemnation from his boss would be far more likely to make the England striker change his ways.
If results on the pitch are all that matter to Sir Alex, then next time Rooney’s in trouble with the authorities, remember Sir Alex’s lax treatment of him over this incident, and don’t be surprised.
By Marcus Beaden – Hereford United fan