FA powerless to ban Rooney after referee says incident was dealt with
the FA are frustrated that Wayne Rooney will be free to play the most critical stage of Manchester United's season, beginning with the league game at Chelsea tonight, but insisted yesterday that only Fifa could alter the system to ban the striker for three games after his blatant attack on Wigan's James McCarthy on Saturday.
As expected, referee Mark Clattenburg insisted yesterday that he had seen the incident at the DW Stadium and did not concede that he had missed what appeared to be a clear elbowing of the 20-year-old Irish midfielder.
The FA know that supporters of United's title rivals will claim that Alex Ferguson has managed to exert his influence, resulting in Clattenburg delivering what seems to be a crass decision which could affect the title outcome.
However, the FA are powerless to change the decision because Fifa guidelines aimed at avoiding the "re-refereeing" of matches generally prevent the FA from taking disciplinary action on incidents which are seen and dealt with at the time by the match officials.
Only in the most extreme cases have referees admitted to missing incidents like Saturday's, with Ben Thatcher's eight-game ban in 2006, for an elbow-led challenge on Pedro Mendes which left the Portsmouth player needing oxygen, one of very few cases in recent years of a ban being introduced after the event.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti was unwilling to respond to Clattenburg's decision ahead of a game which the reigning champions enter 15 points adrift of United.
"If these are the rules, and the FA decided this, I am happy to play against Rooney," he said.
United defender Rio Ferdinand stoked the fires ahead of the game by casting doubt on whether Ancelotti's big-money January signings Fernando Torres and David Luiz would have an impact in deciding the destination of this season's Premier League trophy.
"The Torres deal did make me think, 'wow, they've really gone for it.' But will those transfers really improve Chelsea this season? I don't know. Next season, I would say yeah, they will. But it's hard to settle in quickly in January," said Ferdinand.
On the Rooney incident, Professional Game Match Officials general manager Mike Riley said Clattenburg had acted on what he saw.
"In this incident Mark was following play but caught sight of two players coming together and he awarded a free-kick because he believed one player had impeded the other," Riley said. "He acted on what he saw on the pitch." (© Independent News Service)