I’m not entirely sure why the Wayne Rooney ‘dive’ continues to be debated from the FA Cup fifth round match between Preston and Man Utd. There was no contact from the goalkeeper, and Rooney – crucially – chose to fall over. He wasn’t forced to fall over. He wasn’t touched. It was a dive.
But players dive all the time. And each time they do, the commentators, the ex-players and the pundits all unite to condemn it and say that it should be stamped out of the game.
Then we’re given the incident in last night’s match, and the ex-Man Utd pundit – and, worryingly, the England manager – both excuse Rooney’s actions and deny it was a dive.
I suspect it was because it was Wayne Rooney. Had it been Cristiano Ronaldo, or Gareth Bale, you can be sure it would be called a dive. If a German player did what Rooney did in the last minute of a World Cup game against England, you can be sure it would be called a dive.
But who did it shouldn’t come into it.
So if we’re going to accept what Rooney did last night was legitimate and fair, then teams will now be given penalties for taking evasive action. The debate around whether there was any contact will become irrelevant, and players will continue to hit the ground under no contact whatsoever screaming ‘But ref! I was trying to get out of the way!’ and expecting penalties.
The fight against simulation takes a sorry two steps back.
On a slightly separate note, get Phil Neville off my television. The sooner he’s strapped into a straightjacket and wheeled away to talkSPORT, the better.