Wayne Rooney provided us purveyors of top flight football with the annual debate on diving, simulation, cheating or whatever you want to call it, when he went to ground to win a penalty and effectively end the the FA Cup fifth round contest between Manchester United and Preston North End.
England's captain stepped up and smashed the spot kick high into the net to make the final score 3-1 and in turn spark off all kinds of hysteria on social media from fans and public alike. Former Premier League striker and talkSPORT pundit Stan Collymore was one of those berating Rooney for going down.
Apparently being captain at Manchester United and for the Three Lions, as well as wearing a Respect armband, should be enough to stop Rooney from reverting to such tactics Saying things like 'he's better than that' make it sound like whether going down or not is some kind of moral decision. It just isn't.
Rooney is a professional footballer and did exactly the right thing. If anyone is to be blamed for this ridiculously overplayed episode it should be Thorsten Stuckmann. Preston's German goalkeeper made his bed when he came careering out of his goal at breakneck speed to lunge for the ball he was never going to get near.
He didn't get near it, it was a silly challenge, Rooney saw him coming and what followed is exactly what should have happened. Call it a dive or 'evasive action', as Roy Hogdson did as a guest on BBC television, the 29-year-old did what was best for his team and finished off the game.
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Outraged reaction to Hodgson's stance on the matter was also laughably absurd - what on earth did anyone think the England manager, who has repeatedly stated Rooney;s importance to him and the teams he will pick, was going to say
What would be the alternative? Rooney knocks the ball past the 'keeper and waits to be cleared out by the uncontrolled lunge?
It appears as though some anger at diving comes from people thinking it is a dishonest practice, one that is a bad example to those watching and disrespectful to their fellow players. In the world of continual professional football scandals we currently inhabit, Rooney's tumble hardly seems top priority.
It Could Be Far Worse
Maybe one would think differently if the former Everton wonderkid had feigned injury when an opponent's arm wafted close to his face, resulting in a dismissal. A silly challenge from a desperate goalkeeper was given the treatment it deserved - at least he didn't writhe around on the floor suggesting there was contact.
What would be the alternative? Rooney knocks the ball past the 'keeper and waits to be cleared out by the uncontrolled lunge? If he gets injured, you're then left asking why he didn't just get out the way.
Perhaps he could have just stayed up and tried to score from the tight angle running away from goal, but you must have been living in a bubble if you think any modern footballer is going to do that.
Get Used to It
Whatever it is labelled, what Rooney did is a part of the game and it is here to stay. It is nothing more than exploiting a defensive error to gain an advantage; if a defender had lost him marking Rooney at a corner and it had been made 3-1 via a header, we would probably chastise him for making an error.
We should probably do the same in this case. Rooney was quicker, he got there first, Stuckmann was nowhere near the ball, Manchester United had been playing poorly and needed the comfort of the third goal. Their captain gave them that and he did exactly the right thing.
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