Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson yesterday made an impassioned, albeit belated, defence of Fernando Torres and suggested Sir Alex Ferguson attacked the player in order to gloss over the misbehaviour of his own squad.
Following Manchester United's 3-2 victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford last weekend, Ferguson castigated Torres for supposedly trying to con the referee Howard Webb into awarding the penalty and free-kick which ensured Liverpool got back to level terms before Dimitar Berbatov's late winner for the home side.
Hodgson cast aside those remarks as "inflammatory" and while he might consider Ferguson a close friend, his first priority remains protecting Torres's reputation. "Alex is a good friend of mine and knows how to use the mass media and he's used it very well there," Hodgson said. "And he might have used it to deflect from Nani who, certainly on one or two occasions, was playing for fouls in our opinion so I'm not concerned about that at all. Fernando Torres is not a cheat, he has proved that time and time again.
"He is a very respected player, he is strong and takes players on and not easy to stop and he is going to get fouls like he did for the equalising goals. There is no danger of us cheating," said Hodgson.
"The players here have had years and years of criticism and crisis management every time they have not won a game or things have not gone their way and I think Torres will shrug those suggestions off just as I shrug them off."
Hodgson said he did not defend Torres following the game because he felt he had no cause to do so. He has since changed that opinion. "Well, possibly I'm learning as I go along," he added. "I didn't think it was necessary to say it because it was insulting people's intelligence. For me, it was one of Alex's inflammatory little digs to make his victory even sweeter and our defeat even harder and that's part of the game."
Of the 11 who started that game against United, none took the field for the disastrous Carling Cup penalty shoot-out loss to Northampton on Wednesday and Hodgson is honest enough to know that the pressure is now on his shoulders. "Games like Wednesday night are real banana skins and we were foolish enough to skid on it and as a result you skid yourself into a lot of trouble and a lot of criticism," he said.