Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Ashley Young might have emerged from the past week with a reputation as someone who goes down too easily, but the Manchester United manager claims not to have seen anything to suggest that he is a diver.

A week after the England internationalist was at the centre of a penalty row against Queens Park Rangers, he was involved in more controversy during yesterday's 4-0 win over former club Aston Villa.

Referee Mark Halsey decided the contact as Young attempted to step inside Ciaran Clark was worthy of a penalty just six minutes into the Old Trafford match. Alex McLeish, the Villa manager, disagreed.

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Ferguson believed it was a penalty but conceded Young had gone looking for it and, when asked directly whether the winger might be seen as someone who goes down too easily, Ferguson responded: "I think in that situation, in the last week or two, yeah.

"I have never seen that in him. It is not an habitual thing with him. He was brought down. He just made the most of it. But he definitely brought him down. There was contact. He has bought the fact that Ashley jinked inside him.

"He has gone down quite easily but it was a penalty."

McLeish's mind wandered back to an incident at Anfield last weekend when youngster Samir Carruthers went down under Daniel Agger's tackle and was booked for diving.

"We had a young player got booked for diving at Liverpool last week when it should have been a penalty," he said. "It looks as if he is a diver because they have said he was simulating.

"It is hard to say to the ref that he totally got it wrong because it is a split-second. But I didn't think it was a penalty.

"Ashley threw his leg into Ciaran Clark's leg and Ciaran was static. He planted his feet firmly on the ground. He then tries to pull his leg away.

"Some other people may disagree but I felt it was a very soft decision."

The incident provided the major talking point of a one-sided contest that never threatened to cause United any concern given Manchester City's return to form.

Wayne Rooney sent Shay Given the wrong way from the spot and took his tally for the season to 31 in the second half after Danny Welbeck had taken advantage of Nathan Baker's defensive blunder just before the break.

Not that Ferguson was entirely impressed with Rooney. "He was careless," said the Scot, who watched Nani grab a late fourth. "Wayne has to play on the edge of a game, when it is really close and competitive.

"When the game gets to that casual bit, he is worse than the rest of them."

After having their lead cut to two points on Saturday following City's 6-1 at Norwich, United could open it up to eight again when they entertain Everton on Sunday.

And that would set up a derby with City at the Etihad Stadium on April 30 when victory would see them crowned champions.

"I couldn't care less," said Rio Ferdinand, the Old Trafford defender. "The fans would love it, but as long as you get your hands on the trophy you would take it in the back garden."

Ferguson is not even prepared to go that far. "You can never be too confident in this game," he said. "My experience tells me that there is always something that is going to bite you on the bum. Hopefully we can avoid that."