Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Manchester United stars hit back at Rooney ban

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 06: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 6, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The Football Association believe that the Wayne Rooney verbal abuse case will prove a significant landmark in the Respect campaign

Targeted: Wayne Rooney has been given a two-game ban for swearing into a television camera after scoring against West Ham and his Manchester United team mates have jumped to his defenceBY SAM WALLACE

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However, there were claims yesterday from some Manchester United players that the furore since the striker swore into a TV camera last weekend reflects a national prejudice against club and its success.

United's players declared yesterday that the FA's decision to enforce a two-game ban against Rooney was disproportionate and even Ryan Giggs said he was “bamboozled” by the punishment.

“There was no precedent for it. It had just never been done before,” Giggs said

“I'm not surprised [by a sanction] because of the profile Wayne has got — but a two-match ban, yeah, I'm surprised about that.”

The FA, who will keep a watching brief on cameras encroaching towards the playing area after Saturday's incident at West Ham, reject any claim of an anti-United bias, despite Rooney's ban coming two weeks after Sir Alex Ferguson's five-game touchline ban.

Though the Rooney case was judged on its own merits, there is a feeling at the FA feel that the profile Rooney commands when he transgresses the game's codes has ensured a greater profile for a Respect message than might otherwise have been the case.

Though Rooney said yesterday that the sanction “didn't seem right” considering his immediate apology, the Association believe that a similar incident at last summer's World Cup, when the striker escaped punishment, should have acted as a warning to him.

United's players declared yesterday that the FA's ban would strengthen the side's morale with Luis Nani affirming a desire to “show those people” who “speak badly about us.”

United's attempts to cite the abuse Rooney received from West Ham fans in mitigation has come to nothing and the 25-year-old will now miss the FA Cup semi- final with Manchester City as well as tomorrow's game with Fulham.

“Every year we fight against the best teams and of course, a lot of people like Manchester United and on the other side a lot of people don't like us,” Nani said.

“It's normal to have an opinion and speak badly about us, but we have to be strong and win all those games to show those people.”

He added: “I think [Rooney] was unlucky because he's a superstar, everyone is focused on him when he does something.

Rio Ferdinand continued his staunch defence of Rooney yesterday by suggesting that players ought to be given greater freedom to celebrate, though that should not include the conduct witnessed at West Ham.

“It's not ‘do as you want' — there's got to be a little bit of a barrier to what you do,” he said.

“But even the slightest things like taking your shirt off when you score a goal. What is the problem with that? I don't understand why that has been banned. Why?

“If someone can explain that to me — it's going to get a few more birds in the stadiums. I think sometimes people want to make up too many rules when you don't really need it. I'm sure there is some support [for Rooney] but there's more against him. People want to string him up.”

Rooney said in a statement issued through his spokesman Ian Monk that he was “not the first player to have sworn on TV and I won't be the last.

“Unlike others who have been caught swearing on camera, I apologised immediately. And yet I am the only person banned for swearing.

“Whatever, I have to accept that what's happened has happened and move on from here. That is what I intend to do.”

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