SIR Alex Ferguson has insisted there is no diving culture at Manchester United.
The Red Devils manager launched a passionate defence of winger Cristiano Ronaldo amid allegations he cheated to gain his side a crucial penalty against Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Having watched the incident countless times on video, Ferguson is adamant referee Chris Foy was correct to give the spot-kick and said there was no way he would ever support a player who deliberately dived.
"We do not condone diving at this club and Cristiano is well aware of that," said Ferguson.
"But I have looked at the incident a million times and Cristiano lost his balance completely.
"It is difficult for players who run as quickly as he does. For instance, if you were driving at 70mph in a car and another car comes out in front of you, do you brake or carry on?
"Don't forget, last year at Manchester City he got sent off for intent, even though there had just been two disgraceful tackles on him, while Steven Gerrard got a penalty at Sheffield United at the start of the season, again for intent.
"The interpretation is down to the referee but, to me, it was a clear penalty."
Ferguson needs Ronaldo fully focused and on top form this evening as United look to avoid a calamitous Champions League group stage exit at the hands of Benfica for the second straight season.
The United boss has acknowledged he is somewhat surprised his side should find themselves in their current plight, given they collected a maximum haul of nine points from their opening three games.
However, unexpected defeats to FC Copenhagen and Celtic have brought a sense of nervousness to proceedings, although, as Ferguson reflected, it is entirely in keeping with United's history that they should find themselves in such a precarious position.
"I know we will do it," he said, "but why do my players take us all right to the edge so often?
"It is as if the make-up of the club has a built in requirement to take the difficult route.
"When you look at the history of our club, we tend to keep our supporters on a knife-edge. It seems like there is a certain enjoyment in it."