As Manchester United retained their five-point advantage at the top of the English Premier League on Sunday, the main talking point from the game wasn’t their comfortable 4-0 victory over Aston Villa.
It was the penalty awarded to them in the sixth minute after winger Ashley Young fell dramatically inside the box.
While Young looked to have been fouled by Ciaran Clark even United boss Alex Ferguson admitted the player’s reaction was over the top.
Two incidents in back-to-back games have seen Young architect a foul to win a penalty – and he has achieved maximum success.
But in doing so, he is earning a reputation as a ‘diver’. This is a tag which could prove difficult to shake and will surely bring some awkward moments for Ferguson in the future.
While the British media label such histrionics as ‘the act of deception’, the Latin argument quantifies the same act the ‘art of deception.’ The ability to con the referee to win advantage over an opponent is seen as a skill, a craft and a player just doing his job. Asked if he was worried Young was getting a reputation for going down too easily Ferguson said: “In the last week or two, yes. I’ve never seen that in him. It’s not a habitual thing in him. He was brought down, he just made the most of it.”
The backlash towards Young has seen many purists angered by his alleged play-acting. It is a trait many English journalists believe was brought over by the influx of foreign players into the Premier League. Diving before then wasn’t as common as it is now and it isn’t what English football culture is recognised for.
Players are brought up and developed in tough environments where those who go down easy are seen as weak.
Interestingly, this season has seen more home-based players found guilty of play-acting than their foreign counterparts.
Along with Ashley Young, Liverpool’s Andy Carroll, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Newcastle’s James Perch have all been accused of going to ground too easily, much to the annoyance of those who were more than happy to shift the blame away from the English players.