Wayne Rooney will find out next week if he faces an English Premier League ban for celebrating his dramatic hat trick for Manchester United on Saturday with an expletive-filled outburst.
Rooney produced his finest performance of a disappointing campaign as the Red Devils came from two goals down to win 4-2 at West Ham and remain clear at the top of the EPL standings. But Rooney is in danger of missing one or more future matches due to antics following his third goal, when he screamed foul language directly into a television camera.
The incident forced Sky Sports – the primary broadcaster of soccer in the United Kingdom – to issue an immediate on-air apology. According to a source at the English Football Association, preliminary discussions have already been held to determine whether Rooney should be charged over his remarks.
United tried to take pre-emptive action late Saturday, with Rooney hastily issuing a statement in which he apologized for his behavior.
"I want to apologize for any offense that may have been taken from my goal celebration, especially any parents of children that were watching," the statement read. "Emotions were running high and on reflection, my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate. It was not aimed at anyone in particular."
Rooney was previously involved in a camera incident during last summer's World Cup, attracting a swathe of criticism for making incendiary remarks about England fans after the national team was booed by its own supporters following a 0-0 draw with Algeria in Group C.
There is no specific precedent for disciplinary action of this nature, but the English FA is determined to crack down on inflammatory gestures or language that may be considered to adversely affect the image of the game.
The Rooney situation may provide FA officials with a perfect opportunity to send a clear message on the matter in an attempt to avoid any repeat, although United will be certain to strongly oppose any proposed action against the 25-year-old – especially now that he seems to have made a spectacular return to form.
Rooney was outstanding at Upton Park, helping turn the game around when it looked like United could falter after the Hammers first grabbed and then extended a lead thanks to a pair of first-half penalty kicks.
Supported by the outstanding Dimitar Berbatov, Rooney curled in a free kick for his first goal; wriggled free in the penalty area before slamming home a second goal; then completed his hat trick with a penalty kick. Javier Hernandez added the team's fourth goal and United's title charge remained firmly on track.
Indications from the FA suggested that a warning, as opposed to a formal ban, might be seen as a more appropriate reaction to Rooney's outburst. Either way, United's hierarchy will be waiting nervously until the decision is made.
This is a huge week for United, with a Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Chelsea coming up on Wednesday, and the side could use some good news to continue the positive vibe of the weekend.
For Rooney, the past year has brought little in the way of positive energy. Now, on the field at least, he is starting to look like the player of old who established himself as one of the world's best before falling from grace.