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 Sir Alex Ferguson, are understood to be furious at the severity of the punishment facing Rooney, who has until 6pm on Tuesday 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.
Having 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 quickly and decisively with Rooney. The player’s swift apology afterwards is unlikely to affect the outcome.
With Rooney being charged less than three weeks after Ferguson was hit with a five-match touchline ban following his criticism of referee Martin Atkinson, United believe the charge to be further evidence of their perception that the club 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.
“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 decided to accept that he will be banned, but plan to challenge the severity of the penalty in an attempt to turn the two-game ban into a one-game suspension.
Ferguson and United chief executive David Gill are to discuss the avenues open to Rooney on Tuesday morning.
Telegraph Sport understands 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 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.
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.
In a similar case to Rooney’s, Birmingham City defender Steve 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.
Rooney is set to miss Fulham’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday, which means Mark Hughes’s side will escape having to face him in both this season’s Premier League games.
Rooney was sidelined for the 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage with a stomach bug, so Javier Hernández had a first start in a match that saw Nani miss a penalty.
The second game Rooney would miss if his ban is upheld is the FA Cup semi-final on April 16 with Manchester City, against whom he scored the winner at Old Trafford in February. If his ban is extended to a third game, he would sit out the trip to Newcastle on April 19.