United fight FA ban
Manchester United will fight the Football Association and risk losing Wayne Rooney to a three-game suspension -- in an attempt to avoid the forward being banned for next week's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City as a result of his foul-mouthed rant into a television camera.
Senior figures at Old Trafford, led by manager Alex Ferguson, are understood to be furious at the severity of the punishment facing Rooney. He has until 6.0 today to respond to a charge of using offensive, insulting and/or abusive language -- which carries a two-game suspension -- issued by the FA, following his expletive-laden reaction to a cameraman after scoring his hat-trick goal in United's 4-2 victory at West Ham on Saturday.
Because he aimed his aggressive outburst directly at the camera during Sky Sports' live broadcast of the fixture, the FA believes that it had no option but to deal swiftly and decisively with Rooney.
With Rooney being charged less than three weeks after Ferguson was hit with a five-match touchline ban for criticising referee Martin Atkinson, United believe the charge to be further evidence of their perception that they are subjected to more stringent penalties than their rivals -- simply because of their profile as England's most powerful club.
The FA's decision to charge Rooney has been supported by Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, however -- he believes that the United striker deserves to be held to account for his outburst.
"The charge is fair enough. I don't remember Bobby Charlton doing that when he scored, or Jimmy Greaves," Redknapp said.
"I don't know why some of these young footballers are so angry with the world. They get hundreds of thousands of pounds a week. I respect him greatly as a player, but he is a silly boy for what he did. I don't know why he did it."
Despite the anger within Old Trafford at the FA's action against Rooney, the club have ruled out the option of fighting the charge in an attempt to overturn the two-game suspension after calculating that a more restrained approach is more likely to result in a reduction in the ban.
Ferguson and United chief executive David Gill are to discuss the avenues open to Rooney this morning in consultation with the club's disciplinary advisers.
And it is understood that United will accept the FA charge, but contest the severity of the punishment, despite the possibility of a disciplinary commission extending the ban to a third game because of it being perceived as a 'frivolous' move.
By accepting the charge, United will await the verdict of a disciplinary panel tomorrow -- at which neither the club nor Rooney can be represented -- that will deliver a final judgment.
If United are successful in reducing the suspension, Rooney is likely to miss just this weekend's Premier League game at home to Fulham. The likelihood of that happening is very slight, however, as the club would have to prove 'exceptional circumstances'.
The possibility of Rooney being banned for a further game if the appeal fails -- the trip to Newcastle on April 19 -- is a sacrifice that Ferguson is willing to take in an effort to have the player available to face City at Wembley three days earlier.
While United are determined to secure a reduction in Rooney's suspension, Ferguson's desire to have the England forward available for the Wembley clash with City on April 16, rather than the club's anger with the FA, is the major factor in their plans to challenge the sanction facing the 25-year-old.
But there is a growing sense within Old Trafford that United's profile is being seized upon by the FA when dealing with disciplinary matters.
Rio Ferdinand's four-game ban for hitting out at Hull City's Craig Fagan last year, in contrast to Liverpool's Javier Mascherano and Steven Gerrard escaping censure for similar offences, was cited by Ferguson last season an example of his club being subjected to double standards from the FA.
Sources at the FA have confirmed, however, that Ferguson was warned following his punishment for criticising referee Alan Wiley in October 2009 that "greater profile carries greater responsibility" -- a clear reference to the Scot's belief that United are victims of heavier punishment than others.
And while it is rare for footballers to be charged with using offensive, insulting and/or abusive language, Blackburn Rovers defender Gäel Givet was sent off by referee Mark Clattenburg following a verbal tirade against the official after a defeat at Fulham last month.
In a similar case to Rooney's, Birmingham City defender Stephen Carr was charged by the FA and subsequently banned for one game for aiming an obscene gesture at Aston Villa supporters after a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park last season.
While attention centred on Rooney's behaviour at Upton Park, however, the West Ham manager Avram Grant was also in hot water with the FA yesterday.
They imposed a two-match touchline ban and £6,000 fine on the Israeli for comments made about referee Mike Jones following last month's FA Cup quarter-final defeat against Stoke City. (© Daily Telegraph, London)