By Matthew Campbell
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his star striker Wayne Rooney have both been involved in controversy over their distinguished careers and both recently were awarded bans by the Football Association which have now been completed, but my question is should those bans have been given in the first place?
I spoke to former Premier League referee Jeff Winter to get his views on two of the most high profile incidents to occur this season.
Sir Alex was given a five match touchline ban and was charged with improper conduct after comments the United boss made about referee Martin Atkinson after the official’s performance in the defeat to Chelsea.
The case was brought against Ferguson as he alleged bias on the part of Atkinson as he challenged the impartiality of the Bradford based official and questioned the referee’s appointment to the game.
Ferguson also questioned the cup final ref’s decision not to send off David Luiz for a second yellow card after a foul on Wayne Rooney and his decision to award Chelsea a penalty; however it was the Luiz incident that left the Scot fuming.
After the game he said “You hope you get a really strong referee in games like this.
“It was a major game for both clubs and you want a fair referee, you know you want a strong referee, anyway, and we didn’t get that.
“I don’t know why he’s got the game. I must say that, when I saw who was refereeing it, I feared the worst.[i]
On the Luiz incident Ferguson said:
“I don’t know how he’s on the pitch. Even before that [first foul on Rooney]he’d done Chicharito [Hernández] off the ball, late. Nothing’s done and the referee’s in front of it. He’s then done Rooney, clear as day, and he’s six yards from him and doesn’t do anything.
“These decisions change the game, and he’s going to be refereeing every week.”
The FA took exception to the comments surrounding Martin Atkinson’s impartiality and banned the Old Trafford boss from the touchline for five games, a decision former referee Winter agreed with.
“At last the FA dealt with a manager quickly and firmly.
“Not for the first time Ferguson was bang out of order with his personal criticism of a match official.”
Sir Alex had history with the FA after he was warned and fined over comments made about the fitness of now retired former Premier League official Alan Wiley in a match against Sunderland a couple of seasons ago.
Because of this Winter believes the Man United boss had only himself to blame.
“He had the ban coming and had not learnt from his previous incident which still had a suspended ban hovering over him.”
Ferguson has now completed that five game ban but with the reverse fixture coming up against Chelsea in the coming weeks, will the United boss be able to keep his mouth shut if decisions go against his team?
Winter, who’s last professional match as a referee was United’s 3-0 FA Cup final win over Millwall in 2004, also had some strong opinions on the Wayne Rooney situation after the striker was given a two match ban for swearing into a television camera after scoring a hat trick in United’s victory over West Ham.
Rooney accepted the charge, however contested the length of the ban as he felt it was excessive. He said “I am gutted to miss two matches, one of which is an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
“I am 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. That doesn’t seem right.[ii]
However Winter believes the football authorities were right to act.
“Rooney’s behaviour showed complete lunacy, showing a total lack of intelligence and respect.”
The England forward was lucky not to receive a three match ban for an elbow on James McCarthy against Wigan only a matter of weeks prior to this incident and Winter questioned whether Rooney had learnt from his previous misdemeanours and was also surprised that so many people within the game felt the ban was wrong.
“I was surprised so many within the game wanted no action to be taken.
“This is a sad condemnation of the current standards, not only in the game but in society in general.”
Like his manager, Rooney has now completed his ban and this is important if United want to regain the Premier League title. Without their star striker they have struggled in the past, none more so than in the FA cup semi final with local rivals Manchester City but now United’s number 10 has returned and with the Red Devils nine points clear at the top of the table it looks like only a matter of time before that Premier League is back in the trophy cabinet at Old Trafford.
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[ii]Wayne Rooney quote – Wayne Rooney banned for Man Utd’s FA Cup semi-final