This past week of football has reignited the age-old diving debate after Manchester United's Ashley Young and Ramires of Chelsea both seemed to manipulate their bodies in such a way so as to simulate a foul (dive) in order to win penalties for their sides. The latter was made even more dramatic because it snatched a shock win at Stamford Bridge from right under West Brom's noses in the dying embers of the match.
After the game, which ended 2-2 after Hazard converted that dubious penalty, the footballing world listened on for manager Jose Mourinho's reaction to how Ramires won that foul. To everyone's astonishment, Mourinho firmly believed that it was a definite spot-kick and is probably, along with Andre Marriner at the time, the only person to believe so.
It raises questions though, not only as to the morals of conning a referee, but about how a manager should react to the media about their player's actions. Are there certain instances where a boss should go against the norm and not back one of his players? We have seen many examples in the past that demonstrate both sides of that difficult coin. Most notably of all perhaps, David Moyes and Ashley Young.
Back in September, Manchester United hosted newly-promoted Crystal Palace when Young was involved in a controversial moment after being booked for simulation. At the time, Moyes was very quick and blunt in his condemnation of the England winger's actions. Moyes said:
"I've always said I don't like diving. Ash has put his leg into the lad's leg. The boy definitely puts his leg out and, rightly so, he deserved to get booked. I don't want my players diving. I don't want anybody doing it. I'll definitely say to Ash it's not what I want."
However, in the Champions League tie against Real Sociedad in midweek, Young won United a penalty after appearing to go to ground after minimal contact at most, however, this time Moyes's reaction was quite different to the one against Palace. The Scot said,
"I have seen it again, the boy tugs him in the box. The referee is two yards away from it and decides to give it. He's got a penalty kick for a decision tonight."
Definitely more coy from Moyes. What this does show, however, is a certain lack of consistency from United's manager, made even more confusing as last season Phil Neville of all people, a player who encapsulates professionalism, was booked for simulation when at Everton under Moyes's management. Moyes lamented Neville and even fined the experienced player.
Would a more consistent approach from managers towards their players help eradicate diving from the game? Aside from Moyes, we have seen different stances from different bosses, such as Mourinho on the weekend who was quick to defend Ramires' apparent dive by claiming it was a stone-wall penalty.
In the past, we have seen managers both backing and criticising their players in public, some more so than others. Take Paolo Di Canio for example. When he was still at Sunderland he was publicly angry after separate mistakes from John O'Shea and Ji Dong-Won and held back no punches in the criticism of his players. However, as time showed us, that disciplinarian approach cost the Italian after the players lost faith in his methods and the team's discontent with their former manager ultimately sealed his fate.
And so it bodes the question, particularly after the Sunderland dressing room helped oust their old boss, are managers afraid to publicly stand against their players' actions in the press? It has certainly always seemed to be the norm for a manager to help his players no matter what they are going through. However, if a player knows his manager won't dock his wages or drop him from the first-team, but instead will openly back him in the press, where is the deterrent exactly?
While Moyes is said to be dealing with matters internally at Old Trafford with regards to Young, no word has been heard as to what Mourinho may do and it looks highly likely that it will be overlooked by the Chelsea manager. It is a difficult matter to determine exactly, as different managers have different methods, however, when the same manager takes contrasting approaches, then you have to ask if certain players get preferential treatment. It would be interesting to see how Moyes would deal with Robin van Persie should he ever be caught up in diving row.
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