Roy Hodgson backs Wayne Rooney amidst diving controversy

Manchester United and England captain accused of diving to win the late penalty he scored

Wayne Rooney has been accused of diving to win the penalty he slotted to give Manchester united a 3-1 win in the FA Cup against Preston North End at Deepdale. (Photograph: Reuters/Carl Recine)

Wayne Rooney was at the centre of a diving controversy as Manchester United came from behind to beat Preston North End and set up an FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal.

Louis van Gaal's team had overturned Scott Laird's second-half goal for the League One side thanks to goals from Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini when the referee, Phil Dowd, awarded an 87th-minute penalty for a foul by the Preston goalkeeper, Thorsten Stuckmann, on Rooney.

Television replays confirmed there was no contact between the pair, with the England captain hurdling the keeper before clipping the pitch with his right foot. Several former professionals accused Rooney of a dive but Simon Grayson, the Preston manager, absolved the striker of cheating and admitted Dowd could have had cause to award a penalty due to Stuckmann's challenge.

Grayson said: “I am not saying it wasn’t a penalty, I am saying there was no contact. You can interpret that how you want. It wasn’t a dive. He has gone to get out of the way and taken evasive action.


"Sometimes you get those going for you and sometimes you don't. I am not complaining. There was also a push by Fellaini on Tom Clarke for their second goal but they were not blatant mistakes, just fine margins that didn't go our way on the night."

The England manager, Roy Hodgson, also defended Rooney. Asked whether his captain had dived, Hodgson said in his role as a BBC pundit: "No, not for me. I think he's just taking evasive action there. If you are refereeing the game, I think in the run of play, without any of the replays we've just seen now so many times, I don't think any of us refereeing the game in training would have said: 'That's not a penalty.' The goalkeeper's come out in that way, very rashly, he's gone with both feet. Wayne's touched the ball past him."

Van Gaal admitted United were lucky with Herrera’s equaliser, as Rooney was standing in an offside position when the midfielder’s shot beat Stuckmann.

The United manager said: “In the first half we didn’t create many chances so that is why I changed the shape. That was I think why we make the goals in the second half. I think the first goal was a little lucky, the second goal was a training goal – fantastic – and the third goal was a penalty and the match was done. I have to give all the credit to the players because they have done again everything that was asked of them and the spirit in the team is unbelievable.”

United’s quarter-final against Arsenal will be their first home match in this season’s competition. “I think that is the most important thing – that we have a draw at home,” Van Gaal said.

(Guardian service)