Press want Rooney electrocuted - Fergie
Wigan Athletic 0
Manchester Utd 4
Wayne Rooney will discover today whether he faces the possibility of a three-match suspension for violent conduct should referee Mark Clattenburg concede he was mistakenly lenient in dealing with the Manchester United forward's alleged elbow on Wigan midfielder James McCarthy.
Although Clattenburg awarded only a free-kick to Wigan after Rooney's protruding right elbow connected forcefully with McCarthy's left ear, it is understood that the referee could yet prompt further investigation of the incident by the Football Association should he admit in his official match report, which is due to arrive at the FA today, that replays of the incident suggest he made a mistake in failing to punish Rooney with a red card.
Should Clattenburg make such an admission, Rooney could miss United's trip to Chelsea tomorrow night if the FA charges the 25-year-old within its fast-track disciplinary process. Two weeks after dominating the headlines with the majestic overhead kick which settled the Manchester derby against Manchester City, Rooney is once again in the spotlight for the dark side of his game thanks to his actions during the 4-0 victory at the DW Stadium.
The victory, which enables United to travel to Chelsea with a four-point lead over Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, was forged in equal measure by the clinical finishing of Javier Hernandez and the brilliance of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who produced two stunning saves to keep the home side at bay in the first half.
But Rooney -- who scored United's third with a tap-in from Dimitar Berbatov's pass -- emerged as the central figure thanks to his belligerent demons. And if the FA acts, a violent conduct charge carrying a three-match ban could land on Rooney's lap before he turns his thoughts to Stamford Bridge, something Alex Ferguson appears to be bracing himself for.
"I have had a chance to see it [McCarthy incident]," Ferguson said. "There is nothing in it. But, what will happen, the question has been asked and, because it is Wayne Rooney, the press will raise a campaign to get him hung by Tuesday or electrocuted or something like that.
"It is unbelievable. Watch the press. It will be interesting to see it."
Ferguson has rallied against Rooney being exposed to retrospective action in the past. In December 2004, the United manager labelled the FA's disciplinary procedure as 'unfair' and 'immoral' after Rooney was retrospectively banned for three games for shoving Bolton's Tal Ben Haim in the face.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez is unlikely to act as a character witness for Rooney should Clattenburg press for action, however. Martinez said: "I saw the referee at half-time and he felt it wasn't a red card. But if you see the replay, it's clearly an elbow and I felt that, if my player had done that, he'd have been very lucky to stay on the pitch. Rooney was very fortunate."
Rooney's fate now rests in Clattenburg's hands. The endless replays of the incident will infuriate Ferguson, but such is life with Rooney. The saturation coverage is the same, whether he scores a wonder goal or resorts to the behaviour of a 2am brawler at a taxi rank. Still, Rooney might relinquish centre stage to Hernandez if the Mexican continues to outshine and outscore last season's superstar.
Hernandez's brace against Wigan, which effectively won the game prior to the late strikes by Rooney and Fabio, took his tally for the season to 13 goals in all competitions. Nine have come in the league from just eight starts and, tellingly, he has scored in all four of United's wins away from Old Trafford.
Hernandez offers pace, industry, astute movement and the ability to score with both feet and his head, yet he is unlikely to retain his starting role against Chelsea. With Rooney proving exasperating at the DW Stadium, with moments of inspiration intertwined with examples of his touch proving heavy and cumbersome, plus his foolish clash with McCarthy, Hernandez would appear to offer Ferguson a tantalising option away to Chelsea.
The United manager has yet to plump for Hernandez ahead of Rooney in a pivotal fixture, but Hernandez admits he is ready and prepared to tackle Chelsea if called upon. He said: "If he gives me one minute or 90 minutes, I want to do my best. Chelsea is a big game and we want to win."
Victory at Wigan at least gave United's away record a more sunny outlook, but not for the first time this season, Rooney's actions are threatening to bring a menacing grey cloud into view. (© Daily Telegraph, London)