Wayne Rooney Escapes Ban, and That's Indefensible, Illogical and Outright Unjust

Michael HenriksenContributor IMarch 1, 2011

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on February 12, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The one bit of solace I clung to Sunday night after the Gunners justly choked away a cup final the officials tried to hand them has now somehow vanished into Monday's misery. 

No, I'm not talking about Ashley Cole shooting a Chelsea intern with an airgun.  Maybe someday in August or September, that would have given me enough wisecracks to hurl at the blob of Chelsea supporters that watch—eh-hem... excuse me—used to watch soccer at my local bar before they faded with their team's chances, that I would have taken comfort in such an act of stupidity from the former Gunner.

But at such a pivotal point in the season, I was counting on something of far greater significance to rekindle the hope of the Arsenal faithful.

Yes, I'm talking about the surefire three-match ban Wayne Rooney was to be made to swallow for what was an undeniably deliberate, inexcusably moronic elbow to the head of Wigan's James McCarthy.

Watching the replay, there is no question in the minds' of football pundits the world over that what Rooney did was intentional and warranted a straight red card for violent conduct.  Oh, but wait!  There is at least one dissenting opinion.

Sir Alex Ferguson, quick to downplay the severity of having his star player assault a man in front of an audience of millions, upped his rhetoric to a new high.

He commented, "Because it is Wayne Rooney the press will raise a campaign to get him hung by Tuesday or electrocuted or something like that."

Fergie's vivid imagination aside, I'm confident most people just thought Rooney should get the same punishment anybody else who dared to be so thuggish would undoubtedly be handed down.

We Gunners have at best modest expectations for the brigade of nearsighted fools the FA sends out weekly to mock the laws of the game. 

We didn't dare dream that Rooney would be sent off the moment his elbow took flight, and that lowly Wigan would manage to take points off a 10-man Red Devils side.

No, we simply expected that upon further review, given due attention to the incident, the match official Mark Clattenburg would make amends for what he must not have seen on Saturday. 

If he were to simply admit he didn't see the elbow take place, the indisputable replay evidence would be entered into consideration and Rooney would be punished.

The ban would have seen him out for United's trip to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea on Tuesday, as well as their game away to Liverpool Saturday, and a likely sixth-round FA Cup tie with Arsenal at Old Trafford the following weekend.  Hardly three trivial games.

It was a sure thing!  There wouldn't be a hair left on the head of Dimitar Berbatov by the time Rooney got back in the domestic thick of things.

Oh, but like on so many prior occasions when things looked set to go right for Arsenal, the swift hand of injustice came and snatched our hopes away.  

In his report, Clattenberg claimed he saw the incident, and dealt with it appropriately on the field by awarding a free kick. 

In effect, this handcuffed the FA, as they cannot review an incident the match official saw on the field. 

So to recap, Clattenberg's official story, which the FA has wholeheartedly endorsed, is as follows:

1.  I saw Wayne Rooney deliver a cheap shot to the head of an opposing player with his elbow.

2.  I gave a free kick.

3.  Justice was done.

4.  Now, excuse me, while I pat my own back.

If Clattenberg really did see the incident, one can only imagine what the conversation between him and Rooney was like when the ref pulled him aside.  (Please, do share your interpretation below.)

Somehow, quite sadly for the integrity of the game, Rooney has escaped punishment. 

Before Sunday, I would have said the odds of that were somewhere below Arsenal losing to Birmingham on a muffed punt in the 89th minute but above Ashley Cole shooting a kid in the Blues' locker room. 

Stranger things do happen... 


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