Belfast Telegraph

James Lawton: It would be shameful of United to contest Rooney punishment

No doubt there is rage at Old Trafford this morning that Wayne Rooney is to be charged by the Football Association for the obscenity he mouthed in his moment of triumph at West Ham United.

An old persecution complex will be running high and no doubt augmented by the belief that this is a somewhat arbitrary decision in an age when hate, viciously particular, booms down from the terraces and when you don't need a degree in lip-reading to pick up what the old United star Pat Crerand, in another age, once described as "industrial language".

But United, from Sir Alex Ferguson down, need to put their anger aside, and consider for a moment that they have certain responsibilities as the nation's leading football club. One of them is to have their hugely rewarded staff behave in a passably civilised manner. Rooney's language and behaviour in front of a television camera and microphone fell hopelessly below this reasonable demand.

Rooney is not some angry no-hoper on the bottom rung of a fractured society. He lives in a mansion. He is cosseted and made allowances for at every turn. It is no good United, or Rooney (left), saying that his outburst came at the spur of an emotion-charged moment – or that he had been subjected to sickening abuse from the crowd.

Sickening abuse is unfortunately routine business at a football ground. Nor is this the first time Rooney had behaved with less than basic professionalism. Some might say that he is a convenient victim of a Respect campaign which is currently in tatters but then a start has to be made in the uphill job of reminding professionals that they have certain duties.

Responsibilities are too easily shed in today's football, not least by authorities who refuse to address such points of dissension as on-field cheating and frequently inadequate officiating. But this takes us away from a central issue which has now been addressed.

Rooney's behaviour was both crass and unacceptable. This has been recognised correctly by the Football Association. For Manchester United to do any less would be a shameful failure of conscience.

Belfast Telegraph


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