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Premier League

Gary Neville blasts 'inconsistent' FA over Wayne Rooney ban

Gary Neville has accused the FA of being "reactive and very inconsistent" in their handling of the Wayne Rooney swearing scandal.

Rooney begins a two-match ban when he sits out Manchester United's Premier League encounter with Fulham at Old Trafford tomorrow.

The 25-year-old will also miss next weekend's FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Wembley after the FA confirmed they had upheld their original decision after Rooney had challenged it, believing the punishment for his four-letter outburst at West Ham last Saturday had been too severe.

United are not too impressed either and manager Sir Alex Ferguson has taken the opportunity to lambast Superintendent Mark Payne, responsible for managing responses to crime and operations in Wolverhampton, over his pointed comments yesterday and then raise question marks about the pressure that was applied by the FA to last week's referee Lee Mason.

Now Neville has waded in.

Not scared of courting controversy during his own playing days, the 36-year-old is to join Sky Sports as a pundit from next season.

He also has a high-profile testimonial with Juventus to arrange following confirmation the game will take place at Old Trafford on May 24.

Clearly though, retirement has not tempered his opinions.

And on the FA's handling of Rooney, the man who once nearly led the England team into strike action when Rio Ferdinand was stood down from the Three Lions following his missed drugs test, Neville is particularly forceful.

"The FA are very reactive and very inconsistent with their reactions," he said.

"There is no rule in place that says swearing on camera brings you a two-match ban. This week, they have created one.

"Now they must make sure they continue that moving forward.

"Everybody caught swearing on camera will have to be banned for two matches."

In 2006, after Neville had been fined £5,000 for his excessive celebrations of a matchwinning goal against Liverpool, he claimed the FA were trying to take the emotion out of football, believing the governing body wanted matches to be played by "robots".

He is still of that view now, even though he feels asking for restraint is impossible.

"For the last 20 years my grandma has told me that she has caught me swearing on camera," said Neville.

"It happens 20 times in every match. I cannot understand why this time makes a difference.

"You cannot take the emotion out of football. The spur of the moment. The instinct. The release. The reaction. That is life.

"Some people cry, some people kiss, some people scowl. With most, if they are scoring a goal in the last minute to win a match, they have no idea how they are going to react.

"In the European Cup final when Ole scored, I just laid on the floor. That was not normal for me. I used to run and flail my arms at people.

"You can't remove the human element and the passion and emotion. "They (the FA) want football players to remember their working class roots, then when they show some level of emotion that means that they care, they get knocked for it.

"That is the bit I could never understand."

Sir Alex Ferguson is equally non-plussed, although he is adamant Mason will end up as the major loser.

"He has put himself in a terrible position," said the United boss.

"He has been put under pressure. There is no doubt about that.

"It is hard to imagine the referee would send a player off for scoring a hat-trick.

"But he has now put himself in the spotlight. If he doesn't send a player off for swearing the question will be, has he got double standards?

"It is a very difficult position the lad is in. I feel for him. I really do. I don't know where his career is going to go now."

For Payne, there was rather less sympathy, with Ferguson believing the superintendent has merely spotted an opportunity to put himself in the spotlight.

"Everyone has an opinion today," he said.

"There is an issue in the modern world of a need to be noticed.

"There is a wee guy, sitting down there in the Midlands, probably never been recognised in his life, managed to elevate himself to whatever it is in the police force.

"Have you ever seen Wolverhampton on a Saturday night? Do police ever arrest anyone for swearing on a Saturday night? Dearie me. That is a good one."