Diving is not something that I enjoy seeing, no matter what team I am watching or who is doing it. It is a mugs game. No fan of real football wants to see simulation on the pitch and it is one of the most aggravating aspects of the game that will, unfortunately, never cease to exist.
Ashley Young has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently with his controversially extrovert falls in the penalty area that has won United two penalties early on against QPR and Aston Villa.
As an individual, Ashley has won the most penalties in the Premier League (nine) since the 2009/10 season and with his dramatic throwbacks, it is not hard to see why. The only thing Ashley has to do is tumble naturally if he is thrown off balance with a stray foot or a mistimed tackle and the same outcome may well happen, just without the lynch mob jumping on his case. Against Aston Villa, there was contact. Minimal it may have been, but there was contact. He just made an absolute meal out of it.
He has spoken with the former Villa play maker in an attempt to make him realise that things run a little bit differently when you are at United. He has drummed it out of Nani and Ronaldo in the past so if anybody can do it, it is SAF.
“I’ve had a word with Ashley. He understands where we come from and hopefully makes a difference.”
When it comes to diving, however, there are few better ambassadors than Didier Drogba. SAF pointed that out in a not so discreet manner later in the interview.
“I’ve watched the last few games and it was absolutely ridiculous. Players diving and rolling about. Nothing approaching what Young is accused of and the way the press have reacted is because it’s Manchester United. Absolutely no doubt about that. You saw it the other night in the Chelsea game. I think we are in an age when you almost expect it now.”
Against Barcelona, he was at his absolute best. From feigned bollock injuries to excruciating tackles (see above), he managed to hold up the play for a total of six minutes and 30 seconds against Barcelona. Yet, what is the response?
Praise. Magnificent performance from Didier. Excellent all round show of what a football player can do to stop Barcelona. The Daily Mail even ran the caption “He spent most of the game diving and play-acting…” but ignored it in the grand scheme of things.
This would never happen were it United against Barcelona and Rooney had done the same thing. Especially at a time when diving is on the tip of every football pundit’s tongue, this is just the grossest of contradictions.
Had it not been against Barcelona, it may have been a different story. “Beat them at their own game”, people cry. Fair point, nobody gets under my skin more than scheming Sergio Busquets and his peeping Tom aspects from the game against Inter Milan. However, Jose Mourinho managed to beat Barcelona without cheating even after he was down to ten men, so why can’t anybody else?
The fact is that if Ashley Young was still an Aston Villa player and had won the penalty against another team, we would have forgotten about it by now. However, as it is United, it is still in the spotlight. All I call for is consistency. Drogba was downright dirty against Barcelona with his almost romantic relationship with the grass, such was their time spent together, but got praised for his actions.
If diving is something that is ever going to be cut out of football, then the approach to it must the same, no matter what the context is. Holding some players up for it whilst letters others slide is going to do nothing but encourage others to do it more, safe in the knowledge that may well get away with it.
Side note – here are a collection of other Tom Daley dives from this season. Side, side note – All of them are from Liverpool.