Wayne Rooney at centre of dive storm as Man United stumble past Preston
England manager Roy Hodgson sprung to the defence of Wayne Rooney after he was accused of "conning" the referee into awarding him a penalty in Manchester United's 3-1 win at Preston.
United set up a mouth-watering FA Cup quarter-final tie against Arsenal thanks to goals from Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Rooney, who converted a late penalty to seal the win.
Manchester United and England skipper Rooney went down in the box to win the spot kick after Preston goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann rushed off his line to challenge him.
Replays showed there was no contact between the Preston stopper and Rooney, but Hodgson - sat in the BBC studio at Deepdale - insisted his captain had every right to go to ground.
When asked whether Rooney had dived, Hodgson said: "Not for me. I just think he was taking evasive action.
"If you are a referee in the run of play without replays I don't think any of us would have said it is not a penalty.
"The goalkeeper has gone with both feet. Wayne has touched it past him."
Former United full-back Phil Neville - who was also at the game for the BBC - agreed with the England boss.
Former England and Southampton midfielder Matt Le Tissier was not so sympathetic to Rooney though.
He claimed on Twitter that the 29-year-old deliberately dived to win the spot kick that ended his seven-and-a-half-week goal drought.
"Rooney didn't dive to get out of the way of the challenge he did it to win a penalty. Get real people," Le Tissier tweeted.
"It was entirely feasible to have stayed on his feet AND avoid the poor challenge from keeper. He chose to dive and conned the ref."
Simon Grayson believes Stuckmann made no contact with the United striker.
The Preston boss was loathe to criticise Rooney though.
"I am not saying it wasn't a penalty. I am saying there was no contact," the former Leeds manager said.
"You can interpret that how you want. It wasn't a dive. He has gone to get out of the way and take evasive action. I am not complaining."
Debate will no doubt rage for the next few days regarding whether Rooney took a tumble to win the spot kick.
But regardless of what is said in the coming days, the fact remains that United are through to the last eight of the competition, where they will meet Arsenal at Old Trafford.
They had to fight hard to achieve the victory at Deepdale. The League One side prevented the 20-time English champions from registering a shot on target in the first half.
Scott Laird then sent the home fans into uproar by putting North End ahead with a deflected shot that David de Gea will be unhappy to have conceded.
When asked whether he was worried United would be knocked out when Laird's goal flew in, Van Gaal said: "Of course. When we conceded a goal it was a little bit unlucky deviated the shot.
"We have to fight again for the victory."