Date: 4th December 2006 at 12:11pm
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Manchester United are surrounded with controversy and furore once again, following Ronaldo’s antics to earn a penalty at the Riverside. Alan Hansen defended the Portuguese winger in his column in the Telegraph.

Liverpool’s former defensive rock insisted Ronaldo committed no crime as he was only thrown off-balance by the advancing Mark Schwarzer.

‘There does not have to be contact for a penalty to be given, Hansen wrote. ‘On the opening day of the season at Bramall Lane, Sheffield United defender Chris Morgan went to tackle Steven Gerrard and as the Liverpool captain acted instinctively to get out of the way of a late challenge, he fell to the floor. Was there contact? No. Was it a penalty? Yes.

‘There is a thin dividing line between looking for someone to hit you and diving but although Schwarzer was starting to take his hand away, Ronaldo was already off balance because of the goalkeeper’s approach. Under the laws that a centre forward lives by, he was guilty of no crime. The only hope Schwarzer had was that the referee or his assistant would have spotted the absence of any contact.’

To be honest, I hardly expected Alan Hansen to defend Cristiano Ronaldo but his comments are welcome. I think he’s right – but I also think Ronaldo is ready to hit the ground a little too easily, at least for my taste.

But branding him some cheating, diving filth on the evidence of Saturday’s game is just out of pure malice and hatred. He’s not the most popular person around currently but he should not be vilified at every occasion.