Date: 5th December 2006 at 5:40pm
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It looks like our Riverside penalty stirred more controversy than Didier Zokora’s blatant dive against Pompey. Southgate blasted Ronaldo after the game, so now it’s Sir Alex’s turn to speak out on behalf of his player.

The gaffer called Boro manager Southgate a naive man and he’s conjured up a remarkable conspiracy theory.

‘It is revenge for the English press,’ he said. ‘They have been waiting months to do this since the World Cup.’

‘It is possible referees are still judging Cristiano on the way he played in his first season.’

‘The first thing that happened to him at Middlesbrough on Saturday was that he was hacked from behind. The referee did not book the player, which only encourages players to keep kicking him and kicking him.

‘All I know is that Cristiano is the most fouled player in the Premiership and the stats are there to back it up.’

Sir Alex does not think diving is the most pressing issue in the game.

‘What’s more serious in our game, preventing the best players playing or going on for three days about a dive that wasn’t a dive?

‘I have seen it a million times and Cristiano lost his balance completely.’

‘As I have said time and time again, we do not condone diving and Cristiano knows that.

‘But 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?

‘The interpretation is down to the referee but, to me, it was a clear penalty.’

Cristiano Ronaldo agreed with his boss interpretation but could not resist the urge to have a go at Southgate, too.

Southgate stopped playing football last year. He needs to understand football much better,’ he said.

‘I was trying to get past the goalkeeper. I lost my balance.

‘I realise people criticise me for anything I do. They love to do that ever since the World Cup. But it doesn’t bother me.’