Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is set to miss the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City on April 16 after being charged by the Football Association for his foul-mouthed on-camera tirade at the weekend.
Rooney swore into a television camera moments after completing a hat-trick against West Ham on Saturday, and the FA confirmed he had been charged with “use of offensive, insulting and/or abusive language” in relation the incident.
The charge carries a two-match ban if it is accepted, and Rooney has 24 hours to respond.
Unless the 25-year-old can successfully plead that the punishment has been too severe, he will serve a two-match suspension, starting with Saturday's Barclays Premier League encounter with Fulham at Old Trafford and concluding with that eagerly-anticipated Manchester derby at Wembley for the right to meet Bolton or Stoke in next month's FA Cup final.
It had been thought Rooney would escape with a warning. The England forward issued an apology within hours of the final whistle which he hoped would lessen the possibility of any sanctions against him.
However, when an FA disciplinary panel met yesterday they decided Rooney's conduct was so poor it could not be allowed to pass unchecked.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has declared his intention to clean up the game and when Professional Footballers' Association deputy chief executive John Bramhall condemned Rooney's actions, it became clear the idea of a warning was fanciful. Rooney now has three options — he can deny the charge, in which case a hearing would be convened tomorrow where there would be the risk of an increased sanction.
His second option is to accept the charge, in which case he would be banned for the games against Fulham and City.
His third and most likely option is to accept the charge but to appeal against the severity of the ban, but that approach could also run the risk of inviting a more severe ban. The news is a major blow to United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who is trying to prepare a team for tomorrow's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Last night's FA statement read: “The FA has charged Manchester United's Wayne Rooney for the use of offensive, insulting and/or abusive language.
“This charge relates to an incident during his side's fixture with West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday April 2, 2011.
“Rooney has until 6pm on April 5 to respond to the charge.”