United step in the right direction

Credit to Manchester United - and also to the Football Association. Its hand is behind United's decision to suspend Eric Cantona for the rest of the season.

It was suggested yesterday by a former United manager that the club had shown its stature by banning their player after the FA had "passed the buck". While this response is indicative of the loyalty Manchester United imbues, it is also mistaken.

Unlike his club, the FA cannot suspend Cantona until after a hearing. Thus, while United may well have decided to suspend Cantona by themselves, they were clearly given a strong lead by the FA on Thursday. At the back of their mind - though the FA insists it was never discussed - will have been the memory of their points deduction after a brawl between United and Arsenal players five years ago.

United's indisicipline has not improved. Cantona has been sent off five times since September 1993; Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Paul Parker have also been dismissed this season; Peter Schmeichel and Hughes, again, last season. In addition Nicky Butt has already gone close to his first red card and Roy Keane and Steve Bruce are regularly booked into the charge sheet.

United are a marvellous team to watch, but they can scrap with the worst of them. Part of this is their esprit de corps: one for all, etc, which is one of the reasons they are such a successful side. But they sail close to the edge and, too often, overstep it.

Alex Ferguson, their manager, makes it a matter of policy never to criticise his players in public. So far, even on this occasion, he has been as conspicuously silent as Cantona. At Aberdeen, Ferguson deliberately inculcated in his players a them-and-us mentality, directing it against the "old firm" of Rangers and Celtic. He says he has never done this at United because he has never needed to - "they know it," he said.

Maybe now it is time to tone it down. United are, undoubtedly, strongly disliked, even hated, by many football supporters and it is easy to see where the "siege mentality" comes from. This is partly pure envy at their success and wealth. There is also distaste for a commercial operation so successful that earlier this month even sports shops in Blackburn carried banners proclaiming "order your new United third kit now".

The season in which United had points deducted, their opponents - who were also penalised - still went on to win the title while making the mass protest to referees an art form.

But that season was an exception. Most of the title-winners in the last 20 years - Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Everton - have practised good discipline.

So might this year's champions. Compare Blackburn Rovers' record to United. Even before this latest suspension United had suffered twice as many suspensions (22 matches to nine).

Rovers had no one sent off last season while this year both culprits were unlucky; Henning Berg was wrongly sent off against United and Jason Wilcox harshly dismissed against Nottingham Forest for back-heeling the ball away at a throw-in after being booked for an innocuous foul. No one could accuse Blackburn of being soft. They are a hard side, but their aggression is controlled. That freedom from suspension is one reason why they have used 15 players this season and United 25.

One they will not be using again is Cantona, although it is rumoured that he may play for the reserves. That would be unwise. However, he will be present around the club. Although he is not a big influence in the way Steve Bruce or Paul Ince is, he does have an undeniable presence.

Ferguson admits that "there are certain rigid disciplinary codes that apply to everybody at United, but I have never purposely, or separately, asked Eric to stick to our rules."

Maybe it is time he did. Cantona's wayward streak, and his violent explosions, are hardly the example United would wish to set to their many promising young players.

An apology by him, especially to the woman, Kathy Churchman, who was beside Matthew Simmons when Cantona attacked him, should be his first action. A more general apology and some humility might also be a good idea. United's swift and strong response yesterday should merely be the beginning of the rehabilitation of their fallen star.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital