Sir Alex Ferguson, who has "had a word" with Ashley Young about the theatrics which earned him penalties against Queen's Park Rangers and Aston Villa, said last night that the problem of simulation has existed for 20 years but that the football governing bodies lack the ability to deal with it.
The United manager, who has publicly criticised Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy for diving in his teams in the past, cited the Brazilian Rivaldo as the only player who had been "punished for acting". While Ferguson recalled a Rivaldo ban of several games, he was, in fact, fined only £5,180 for the play-acting which got a Turkish player, Hakan Unsal, sent off for kicking the ball at his legs during the 2002 World Cup. "I don't think it lies with the clubs, to be honest," said Ferguson, who suggested ahead of the arrival of Everton tomorrow lunchtime that a bias against his club has led to Young being nationally denigrated while simulation from the Champions League semi-finalists this week has gone unnoticed.
"It lies with Fifa and Uefa. But there are a lot of things we ask Fifa and Uefa for that are never done, aren't there? They have their ways of doing things. Goal-line technology has never happened. There's a lot of issues like that and it doesn't bother me one way or the other, to be honest, because I don't think it will happen."
Ferguson, who described the midweek theatrics epitomised by Chelsea's Didier Drogba as "absolutely ridiculous – players diving and rolling around," considers Young's offence to be far less serious. Asked if players felt they had to dive to win penalties these days, Ferguson said United "have a player and he's been here 20 years" who has never done so. "How many penalty-kicks has Ryan Giggs got for Manchester United?" Ferguson asked. "That's a good quiz question? How many? Yes, I know the answer. Five – in 20 years. There's some record. You know why? Because his balance is good and he never goes down. That's the amazing thing about him."
He revealed that injuries to the midfielders Anderson and Paul Pogba mean they will not play again this season, though held out hope that 19-year-old Frenchman Pogba could be kept from the clutches of Juventus. The manager's disclosure of "a deal" being agreed with the player's agent Mino Raiola, which had seemed the biggest obstacle, appears significant. "It's just down to the boy," Ferguson said. "He is about to make his decision. He knows what United have got to offer. He knows his future is guaranteed here. He is going to be an outstanding player, no question about that. He is going to be a first-team player at Manchester United. So, hopefully, we will get some good news on that soon."
United are five points clear of Manchester City in the Premier League with four to play and while their manager would not publicly countenance the notion that winning the title at the Etihad a week on Monday was an incentive – "I think we just concentrate on Sunday. That's the best way" – he eloquently asserted his belief he can entrust things to his players now. "There's good performers out on that field and they are playing with great determination which you need to do at this time of the season," Ferguson said. "And they've got great experience of handling big-game situations which we are going to face in the next few weeks."