A last minute winner in a derby should always be the main story in the days following the game. Even more so when it’s snatched in dramatic circumstances away from home, against the defending champions who haven’t lost in their last 37 league matches played on their own turf.
Unfortunately, thanks to the idiocy of a few individuals, Robin Van Persie’s free-kick and United brilliant performance were overshadowed by the melee that followed the winner, when Rio Ferdinand was hit by a coin thrown at him by a City fan, while celebrating the winner in front of the away fans.
Despite the seriousness of the incident – a few inches closer to his eye and Rio could have been blinded – BBC Radio Five Live’s Breakfast Show was inundated with callers angry at Rio.
“For any Manchester United player to go up in front of them [the City fans] it’s ridiculous,” said a caller named Brian. “They did not have to go up their end. The players are totally responsible for inciting the trouble, they did it at Chelsea and they did it yesterday.”
But what exactly did Rio do? Did he jump head first into the crowd? Did he mock any of the City players or fans? No, he went straight down our end to celebrate with his team-mates and with the fans who had, understandably, gone berserk as any Red would have done in the circumstances.
So here it is, a professional celebrates with fellow professionals and with people that have paid top money to see their team get one over the local rivals, and he should be forbidden from doing so because some retard in the crowd could feel aggrieved? What happened to journalists taking swipes at players for not being passionate enough?
Speaking on Five Live, former United legend Paddy Crerand was having none of it and put these morons in their places: “Who said that? That is ridiculous. What planet do they live on? That is absolute garbage. How many people have phoned you up? One, two, three? How many? I think the point is absolutely ludicrous. Is this a publicity stunt? Ask me a sensible question and don’t talk stupid, asking me daft questions about whether fans should celebrate or not. ‘Rio Ferdinand was nowhere near where the home fans were. He gets struck by a coin that someone has thrown from about 15 or 20 yards, it wasn’t as if he was standing in front of their supporters jumping up and down.”
Wayne Rooney had also been pelted by coins before attempting to take a corner in the second half but Rachel Burden and her hosts conveniently decided to ignore the incident and moved on to compare Rio’s reaction to Joe Cole’s muted celebration.
As anybody that knows a bit about football will tell you, a last minute winner in a derby is an altogether different proposition from a goal against your former club (unless you’re called Carlos and enjoy taking long, unscheduled breaks in South America to play golf) but Five Live’s ‘experts’ continued to point the finger at Ferdinand.
Players and managers alike should be mature and responsible enough to avoid behaviour that could in any way incite the crowd or provoke troubles. but asking them to return towards the centre circle rather than sharing the moment with their fans is simply ludicrous for football is already overly sanitised as it is.
On the flip side, often in the past we’ve hard the media criticising fans on the basis that purchasing a ticket doesn’t allow supporters the freedom to behave like thugs inside a ground, singing vile chants, racially abusing players or, in this case, throwing missiles at them.
Today, in contrast, we’ve witnessed the polar opposite and surely it would be way too cynical to assume that such a different reaction had anything to do with the club and player involved?
When we score in Fergie time we’ll always celebrate with our players. Get over it, and don’t excuse the inexcusable.