Let’s just forget for a second that Manchester United toiled to a forgettable and limp draw against the weakest team in their group. Let’s also forget that Robin van Persie missed a penalty and another gilt-edged chance, whilst Javier Hernandez failed to find the net when it was more difficult to do so than to the score. Let’s even forget that Marouane Fellaini was poor once more, and concluded his evening with a slow, long and sulking gait back to the dugout after being given his marching orders after a second yellow card.
Let’s instead focus on Ashley Young. More specifically, let’s focus on Ashley Young and his tendency to fall to the ground and gesticulate wildly to the referee after little or no contact.
As this is an issue that irks me greatly, I’m not going to mince my words. So if you’re ‘pro-dive’, it’s probably best for you to look away now. Ashley Young is currently the biggest cheat in the English game, and his club, his manager and his teammates should be thoroughly ashamed that they are associated with someone who has such a massive inclination to try to con the referee.
For those of you who watched the game last night, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Young cut in from the left wing, danced his way into the penalty area and took a tumble after the slightest touch from a defender. Simply put, it is impossible that a grown man could be thrown to the ground by such a challenge, and any attempt to say otherwise is to be totally disingenuous. As Roy Keane said after the game, Young conned the referee, plain and simple.
If this was an isolated incident, I’d be relatively happy to attribute this act to a rush of blood to the head, or one moment of recklessness. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, with Young, it’s anything but an isolated incident. Ashley Young has been diving to win penalties for far too long now, and it really needs to stop.
Let’s forget for a second that diving is a highly dishonourable way to gain an advantage in a football match, and focus on why it is actually in Young’s best interests to stop diving. With every dive, Young’s notoriety increases, and more and more referees become aware of Young’s penchant for simulation. As referees get wiser to Young’s acting ability, they will start to act tougher with Young and he will find himself struggling to get decisions even when he has legitimate reason to go down. Googling the term ‘Ashley Young’ yields nine results on the first page; one of those is his Wikipedia page, the other eight are links to articles decrying Young’s diving. The world is cottoning on Ashley; you’re not that good an actor.
I guess what I find odd is that any footballer would want to win in that way; knowing full well that the victory has been the direct result of cheating. It’s like stealing a load of cash at the start of a Monopoly game, buying all the properties and then celebrating wildly at the end of the game. Winning courtesy of cheating is surely a hollow win, and surely these professional athletes would rather win the right way? Well of course, we know that this isn’t the case, we need only look at last year’s Lance Armstrong revelations to show that there are some athletes who are happy to break rules to win.
My point is that if you win by cheating, you haven’t really won at all. You might clutch a trophy to your chest, but ultimately you and everyone else knows that you’ve only got it because of your lack of conscience. Now that really doesn’t seem like much of a victory to me.
I’ve done enough Moyes bashing to last me for quite a while, so I’ll attempt to limit my tirade as far as the Man Utd manager is concerned, but what was Moyes thinking when he defended his player? I was so highly impressed with the way that the Scot dealt with Young’s dive against Crystal Palace – condemning Young and saying that he didn’t want to see his players dive – and yet for some inexplicable reason, Moyes decided to stick up for Young last night when if anything, last night’s simulation was far more obvious than the Palace incident.
So how do we solve the diving problem in the game? In my opinion, there’s only one thing for it: retrospective action. The wronged party should have the right to refer any perceived act of simulation to an independent body who would examine the evidence and decide whether or not the referee made the right decision. If a player is found to have conned the referee, he should be banned for a period of time. This sort of action would make players far more accountable for their actions on the pitch, and would stop them ruining football matches with gross acts of cheating. At least van Persie missed.