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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before