You might think it’s a bit hard to get worked up about a dive to get an 88th-minute penalty in an FA Cup tie that Manchester United was going to win anyway, particularly since that penalty came against third division Preston North End. If you do, well, it’s clear you don’t think like an English tabloid.
Daily Express headline: “Wayne Rooney is a CHEAT blasts former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore”
Well, yeah. Wayne Rooney’s a professional soccer player, a profession basically synonymous with cheating. Except English players, of course. They’re too honest. It’s mainly a foreigner thing.
Now, clearly there was no contact with onrushing Preston goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann as Rooney leapt over him then tumbled, his head already turning towards the referee to plead for a spot-kick.
Indeed, according to the German goalkeeper and refereeing conspiracy theorist in The Sun, Rooney said as much:
“After the game Rooney told me: ‘Sorry, it was my chance to get a penalty. I had to use that’… I say it clear: ‘That was no penalty’. I also believe that, if the situation had happened the other way around, one of our strikers against the United keeper, the ref wouldn’t have given the penalty. I have no doubt about that.”
But the frothing controversy is lacking a sense of perspective. Stuckmann wasn’t standing innocently on his line, and Rooney didn’t sidle up to him then perform the kind of hammy, staged pratfall last seen in the days of Buster Keaton.
Stuckmann charged recklessly and unnecessarily out of his goal and slid legs-first at Rooney at high speed, like he was going downhill in a toboggan. It was a bad challenge in the penalty area. So, really, the incident was both a foul and a Rooney dive. A penalty to Rooney, and a booking for diving, would have been reasonable, strange as it sounds.
But try making a nuanced argument to WWE wrestler (and namesake of the former Houston Dynamo defender), Wade Barrett, though. “Bad News Barrett,” a Preston fan, started some Twitter banter with Rooney after the game.
Yep, a professional wrestler complaining about simulation. We live in strange times.