When Gary Cahill looks back at his dive against Hull City at the weekend he will have his regrets, but watching it a few times on television, I know what was going through his mind. He was expecting the challenge to come and was anticipating the impact. And then when it didn’t, it became an embarrassing dive.
No-one wants to see diving or cheating in the game, but there is a very fine line to be trodden. If you get nudged, pushed or tripped in the area, you have to go down. We were told that by Sir Alex before every game. We were never told to dive, and there is a big difference. Winning penalties is part of scoring goals, and trying to stay on your feet no matter what makes no sense. A foul is a foul, and it changes the outcome of the original chance.
Some players are very good at turning a foul on them into a penalty decision that the referee has no choice but to give. Others are terrible at it, and it would be fair to say that Cahill has not quite mastered the art.
I felt that one of my strengths was nicking the ball away from defenders in the penalty area. It was about being cute. If you moved the ball away from where they were headed and paused fractionally, then there was a good chance that the defender would be unable to stop himself, and take you out.
There are two penalties I won for United that stand out in my mind. The first was Tomas Repka’s challenge on me at Upton Park in 2002 in a 5-3 win for United. The other is Igor Biscan’s foul on me at Old Trafford in a 4-0 win over Liverpool in 2003. On both occasions I got to the ball first and the defender was not quick enough to stop himself ploughing into me. That is a foul anywhere else on the pitch, and therefore a penalty in the area.Reuse content