Wayne Rooney scored three goals in quick succession to provide Manchester United with a dramatic comeback victory against West Ham on Saturday - but that's not what Sunday's headlines said.
After an awkward and fruitless hour in front of the baying majority of Upton Park's 35,000 crowd who were enjoying a 2-0 lead, Rooney took the game by the scruff of the bull's horns and almost single-handedly fired United toward an invaluable win that took them one step closer to a record 19th League Championship.
With a total of nine goals to his name before Saturday (compared with 34 at the same stage last season), and his United and England performances coming under undue scrutiny from the press, no one could blame Rooney for feeling the pressure. A dire first half in which his touch eluded him, and led to the breakdown of various United attacks, was enough to get the Merseyside Maradona's back up.
Rooney took charge when two-goal Mark Noble upended Michael Carrick just outside the West Ham penalty area in the 65th minute; his insistence that he should take the resulting free-kick rather than the better positioned left-footer Ryan Giggs paid off as he accurately swerved the ball past a fully-stretched Robert Green.
His celebration? A brief salute followed by a regimented Roy-of-the-Rovers run back to his own half.
Rooney's second goal was exemplary of the baldest 25-year-old in the North West's never-say-die attitude. Picking up Antonio Valencia's pass in the 73rd minute, he aggressively yet sublimely created space for himself just inside the box and struck his shot across Green and into the bottom-left corner to level the score.
When his efforts culminated in the conversion of a 79th-minute penalty to turn the game on its head and give United an ultimately insurmountable lead, The White Pele punched the air in front of United's travelling faithful, embraced the adoration of his grateful team-mates, and let out some of the few words available to him: "F***ing what? What? F***ing what?!"
'So f**ing what?', you might think.
But Rooney has since been charged by the FA and handed a two match ban for his 'offensive' celebrations. He will now miss the visit of Fulham, and the FA Cup semi-final against City at Wembley - the latest in a series of 'biggest derby match ever's.
For anyone that's ever played football at any level whatsoever, swearing is a typical outlet of passion or frustration.
Ok, so Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct), Item 6, reads: 'A player is sent off and shown the red card if he uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures'. This is clearly open to interpretation, depending on whether or not the referee sees the incident or whether or not anyone is actually being abused or offended. Can you honestly say you've never missed a sitter and shouted 'b*****d!' or called a team-mate a 'n**head' because of a mis-placed pass? Rooney wouldn't be the same without that edginess, and neither would many other Premier League stars.
Exhibit A, from Newcastle's 3-1 victory over Liverpool at St James' Park earlier this season (13/12/10). Not only was this personally aimed at an opponent, the content was clearly homophobic. No action taken; Mr Torres is big enough to look after himself.
Exhibit B, from Fulham's 3-0 victory over Blackpool just yesterday (3/4/11). Not directed at anyone in particular; but Sky decided to broadcast James Beattie's reaction to Bobby Zamora's goal(03.12). One would correctly assume that no action will be taken, although the 'T-word' is 'offensive'.
Exhibit C, borne from Chelsea's (admittedly understandable) frustration at being knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona in 2009. Didier Drogba was charged by UEFA for his actions against referee Tom Henning, who he branded 'a thief'. Slightly less relevant, this incident was punished because of the defamation of character by Drogba of the match officials - rather than the profane language used. OK, I just enjoy watching the clip.
Also I distinctly remember, a couple of seasons ago, West Ham's Carlton Cole's overly vociferous and inconveniently televised "F*** off!" - in response to a team-mate asking him to take a throw in - being broadcast pre-watershed without question. I'd have been slightly insulted by such abuse if I'd simply asked my mate to take a throw-in.
Swearing on televised football is rife, but this is not to say that it is condemnable behaviour - of course it isn't.
Football has been particularly heavily televised for a couple of decades now. We accept that television cameras figuratively and physically intrude on the modern version of our beautiful game, but Wayne Rooney did not invite them; nor is he responsible for what they broadcast, or who audiences consist of. Yes, his wages would be significantly lower were it not for the constant injection of $ky's zillions - but he shouldn't be expected to compromise his passion to accommodate for intrusive lenses.
Should footballers be expected to maintain an almost parental level of decorum and consider the fact that impressionable children may be watching at home just because the sport they play is televised? I don't believe they should. I've heard current Premier League players I dislike swear on camera: Gerrard, Carragher, Terry, Cole, and the like; it doesn't bother me. They're playing football and we choose to watch them.
Sunday's newspapers, however, were calling for Rooney's head.
'A hat-trick in just 15 minutes but then United star's four-letter rant ruins it all... ROONEY'S DISGRACE' - back page of The Mail On Sunday (3/4/11).
'Rooney blows the respect agenda out of the water', the 'newspaper' went on. Respect for who, exactly? Officials? Rooney acted like the teacher's pet in the aftermath of the two penalty decisions; call that uncharacteristic if you must but the England striker was well-behaved despite facing understandable frustration.
Even today(4/4/11), after one would expect the dust to have settled and the necks of reactionary hypocrites be well wound in, The Mail wheeled out Graham Poll to give his (literal) tuppence-worth.
Poll, of whose glaring shortcomings I needn't remind you, delivered an opening gambit of 'The Football Association should ban Wayne Rooney for three games'. Mr Poll goes on to misread Rooney's emotions as anger, and preach that the feisty Evertonian's reaction was confusingly unworthy of someone who had overcome untold pressure to drag his team into the lead from an away-from-home, two-nil-down position with a 14-minute hat trick.
Everyone's least-favourite ex-referee (sorry Jeff Winter) then went on to tell tall tales about a friend(arf)'s six-year-old son asking 'Daddy, why has Wayne Rooney just said 'f***'?'
Admittedly, the vocabulary of the average British six-year-old may be somewhat more colourful than it was when I was that age, but I remember receiving a slapped backside for daring to utter the word 'damn' in 1992. That is not to say kids these days would be unfamiliar with swearing at all, but to suggest that a boy so young would be watching a goal celebration on television, recognise a barely audible utterance of hopefully unfamiliar profanity, deem it questionable behaviour and alert his father of the unsuitability of what he has just seen, is quite implausible.
I hear worse walking past my local junior school in the morning, anyway.
...and Scooby Doo was all about drugs.
Poll even went as far as saying this Rooney episode didn't make 'pleasant viewing on Sky Sports News throughout Mother's Day'. Hear that, mum? Wayne Rooney ruined Mother's Day: put those tulips in the bin and burn those cards- we're not going out for dinner.
Easily the most ridiculous thing said on the matter came from the jowelly 'Sports Journalist of the Year'(arf) Martin Samuel, whose inability to comprehend what might have been going through Wayne's head can only lead me to believe he has always been too fat to be in a position to score such an important goal and understand one hundredth of what the United star felt.
'I'm offended by his total absence of love and joy for the game', said Samuel the Hutt. 'Give it in', he went on. 'Let another kid have the No. 10 shirt at Manchester United... He might actually smile when he scores'.
Questioning this guy's passion? Accusing this man of not loving football? He's not bothered? This lad should jack it in because he doesn't care? You should not question Wayne Rooney's love for football, Marty.
If we have to offer an excuse (and we don't), it's there for all to see that Rooney's celebration was an impromptu eruption of emotion that renders Mr. Samuel's ramblings quite confusing.
But what should we expect from The Mail? After all, this is the same 'newspaper' that decided a full-page splash dedicated to Rooney's recent minor shortcomings in front of goal was the best way to celebrate a Berbatov hat trick-inspired 5-0 defeat of Birmingham earlier this season; a game in which Rooney provided three assists.
One can only imagine the uproar had Rooney said something offensive while playing for England.
To the Football Association and The Mail: fuck you.
Don't like it?
We're Man United, what fucking what.