Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney: two peas in a pod
Swearing saga proves again that Rooney is only as aggressive and petulant as his manager
Just when you thought Wayne Rooney couldn't sink any lower, he goes and does just that. Last summer, after England fans who had paid a fortune for their tickets had booed Rooney and his team-mates after their abysmal 0-0 draw with Algeria in the World Cup, the striker turned aggressively to the television cameras and said: "Nice to see your home fans boo you - that's loyal supporters."
On Saturday, as he celebrated a hat-trick for Manchester United against West Ham, he turned directly to a Sky TV camera and started yelling "fuck" at the nation, thus confirming his status as the most unsavoury character in world football.
Needless to say, United, aware that the FA might come down hard on their £200,000-a-week player having only days ago launched its new 'respect' campaign, quickly issued a statement.
"I want to apologise for any offence that may have been caused by my goal celebration, especially any parents or children that were watching," said Rooney, or to be more precise, a duty press officer at Old Trafford.
"Emotions were running high and on reflection my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate. It was not aimed at anyone in particular."
But while Sky TV apologised to viewers, who were watching the game live, it was noticeable that no awkward questions were asked of Sir Alex Ferguson in the post-match interview.
The question that needs to be asked of Ferguson - if not by the press, then by the FA - is why he appears to have done nothing to improve his star striker's attitude.
Ferguson has had Rooney under his wing for the best part of seven years now, time enough to teach him how to behave. Instead, Fergie seems spectacularly unconcerned about Rooney's yobbishness and invariably stonewalls journalists who dare to question the player's antics.
"There is nothing in it," he said, after Rooney willfully shoved his elbow in the face of Wigan's James McCarthy in February, an off-the-ball incident that should have received a red card, but which referee Mark Clattenburg decided to let go unpunished.
"You have asked the question because it is Wayne Rooney," Ferguson went on. "The press will raise a campaign to get him hung by Tuesday or electrocuted or something like that. It is unbelievable. Watch the press. It will be interesting to see it."
Some would say that Fergie is so indulgent because he believes that curbing Rooney's raw aggression would cost United dear in terms of points.
A simpler explanation is that both men are peas from the same pod. Both Ferguson and Rooney, for all their success on the field (and no one doubts that Ferguson has been one of the game's greatest managers), are aggressive and petulant bullies who seem to believe they are above criticisism.
Ferguson, the master of the sulk, has not talked to the BBC since 2004, in clear breach of Premier League regulations. The Beeb's crime? Screening a documentary on his son Jason's dealings as a football agent. Another example of Fergie's petulance was when he withdrew his loaned players to Preston North End after the club sacked his other son, Darren, who had taken them to the bottom of the Championship.
Ferguson's attacks on referees are undoubtedly intimidatory. If his threats don't actually persuade referees to favour United when difficult decisions have to be made on the field, then they certainly raise suspicions that the refs are bending the rules in fear of the flak they'll receive from Ferguson. It happened again on Saturday when Nemanja Vidic avoided a red card for his foul on West Ham's Demba Ra.
Of course, Rooney is our responsibility as well as Ferguson's. This snarling, aggressive Neanderthal is a product of a dumbed-down, under-educated and crassly materialistic society for which we must all share the blame.
Elsewhere in Europe, things are rather different. On the same afternoon that Rooney was mouthing obscenities to millions of TV viewers, I was in Germany watching the clash between top-of-the-table Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96.
What was striking was not just the good nature of the supporters - and for those who think alcohol causes the trouble at home, I can tell you that there must have been a thousand litres of beer drunk by supporters of both teams on Saturday afternoon - but also the behaviour of the players.
When Kevin Grosskreutz, who had missed an earlier opportunity, scored Dortmund's fourth goal on Saturday, his celebration was one of pure joy. There was none of the "see-what-I'm-made of" aggression we get from the likes of Rooney.
German football is not without its problems. Last Friday's game between St Pauli and Schalke 04 was abandoned in the 88th minute after a plastic beer glass was thrown at a linesman. But football in Germany happily lacks a Wayne Rooney figure.
More typical, I like to think, is Thomas Muller. Last summer in South Africa, while Rooney scored no goals at all in the World Cup, Muller scored five and won the Golden Boot. And the reaction of this modest man? "I basically got lucky, I hit form at just the right time."