United need a history lessonStuart Mathieson March 24, 2009FIFTEEN years ago today United were embroiled in accusations of indiscipline that threatened to wreck the 1994 Dream Team's double ambitions.Eric Cantona was being labelled the 'enfant terrible' after two red cards in the space of four days at Swindon and Arsenal. The Reds drew both matches 2-2.United's French talisman was banned for five matches as a result.Premiership leaders and title holders United had won just one game in five matches in that bleak period.Roy Keane was also booked at Highbury and his yellow card haul forced him to miss the FA Cup semi-final against Oldham.Old Trafford's crime sheet was the topic of the moment in spring 1994 as Sir Alex Ferguson's powerful machine was in danger of self-destructing.Fast forward to the present day, and those discipline demons have surfaced again to threaten the quintuple bid.Three players have been sent off in two matches and Nemanja Vidic, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney are banned for the next match. Heated After United's heated night in London against Arsenal 15 years ago, Fergie was asked about the discipline problem."We've not been doing anything any different. Maybe the referees are reading the papers," the United boss replied.And Paul Parker, who was right back in that Dream Team, believes Ferguson's words then are as relevant today and it should serve as a warning to the United squad as suspensions begin to eat into their numbers."I remember Eric deserved to go against Swindon because of a tackle on John Moncur but against Arsenal I don't think he should have been sent off," Parker told M.E.N. Sport."But referees are human. They read newspapers. They watch TV and disciplinary incidents are bound to get imprinted on the mind."Certain players will be planted in the back of their minds because of recent situations. They are not biased against individuals but things stick in the mind. They are very reactive. I am sure that is what happened in Eric's case in the second match at Arsenal. If a player has a bit of moodiness about him or fire in his belly then opposition fans get up for it and referees react."Wayne Rooney, for instance, will have had the Liverpool defeat in his head all last week. He's a big football supporter and, as an ex-Evertonian, the thought of handing Liverpool the title initiative and ultimately maybe even handing them the crown will have eaten away at him. He then comes on as sub at Craven Cottage with United losing and all that will be in his head. Intention "It can be a time bomb. If he says he didn't throw the ball at Phil Dowd I accept his word but once you point the gun the intention is there."Fans want to see players hurting after a defeat like the 4-1 against Liverpool. "Everyone would soon be on their case if they didn't react and didn't look like it was painful for them. And take away the fire in Rooney and would he be the same player?"But all that said, you cannot put your team at risk with petulance or dissent. And players have to understand their responsibilities."As the reality of back-to-back defeats set in at Fulham, Cristiano Ronaldo also began wobbling on a disciplinary tightrope.His animated reaction to tackles, retaliatory challenge on Danny Murphy and persistence in showing the mark made on his thigh when he was caught by defender John Pantsil added to the tension by enraging the crowd.The World Player of the Year tested referee Phil Dowd's patience and the official yellow-carded him for the Murphy lunge and warned him he was close to a red following the tantrum over the Pantsil incident."Ronaldo is not helping Manchester United or helping his team-mates by generating that kind of atmosphere," added Parker."Stamping your feet or exaggerated hand gestures just wind up the opposition fans even more and undermine your own concentration."It is not show ponies that are needed at this stage of the season, it is shire horses who will work hard."Nine times out of ten you don't play great football during a title run-in. It is a battle and you have to stand up and be counted. This time of the season is do or die and the last bit of the season makes or breaks you as a Manchester United player. It is how United have reacted in this period of the campaign that makes the difference between a United player and an average Premier League player."It was a nasty atmosphere when we went to Swindon for that match when Eric was sent off. It was horrible. "Being reduced to ten men was a handicap but players stood up to be counted and we got a late equaliser to draw 2-2. Sleeves were rolled up and we got something from it.Message "United need a Gary Neville at the moment on the pitch. I think he would have sorted Cristiano out on Saturday. I don't mean he would have physically got him by the scruff of the neck but he would have got the message across and told him a few home truths that his reactions were not helping the cause. Referees have a difficult job. We might think some of the rules are petty but they have to implement them. "It is their job and they want to progress so they have to work with the guidelines they have been given. They have to come down on petulance and dissent so the message to the players is: `Don't load the bullets. Don't make it easy for referees to punish you.'"Fergie had around half an hour with his squad at Craven Cottage before they dispersed for the international break.Parker says they will have left "with a flea in their ear"."Everybody wants to see the gaffer come out in public and have a go at them but that is not his style," Parker added."The players have got to be told to calm down and he will do but it will all be done in private. Fergie spoke to Eric Cantona after his misdemeanours but he didn't announce it to everyone. But he will have got the message, believe me."He won't allow any indiscipline to continue. "He'll be demanding commonsense and calm from his players. He will make them aware of the fact that they mustn't allow opponents and opposition fans to get under their skin."The `94 team cracked a bit at that point because of the indiscipline but we quickly recovered because it was a team full of strong men."We refocused on the job and won the double. "This team now needs to learn their lessons and pull together. Individuals don't win trophies, teams win trophies."Sir Alex has been there many times before and he'll get a reaction."
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