James Lawton: Victims of Blackburn's bullies are no angels

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The Independent Football

Mark Hughes was a ferocious and talented player for Manchester United and Wales and he is proving a notably effective manager of Blackburn Rovers.

However, he has been slow to recognise that on Saturday against Arsenal his players may just have crossed the line between legitimate force and something hard to separate from brutality as they sought to stifle the markedly superior ability of their FA Cup semi-final opponents. It would not have been giving too much away to allow that Andy Todd's elbowing of Robin van Persie appeared to be as gratuitous as it was mean.

But then part of Hughes' problem may be that he remembers something of the past. He may recall the silence of his chief complainant, Arsène Wenger, at those times when the Arsenal manager's players have stepped over the line. They have not been so infrequent occasions, as they stretch from the elbowing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by Sol Campbell, Robert Pires' dive of the century and Martin Keown's grotesque dying swan act against Roma.

Hughes may also have been thinking about that time when Patrick Vieira, an aggrieved victim of Blackburn, was racking up a spate of dismissals. Then the Arsenal manager warned officials that if they did not lay off, Vieira might just pack his bags and return to France.

A bit of contrition from Hughes would have been in order last weekend. But fair's fair, how many times have we said the same of Wenger?