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Paul Scholes: When diving is not cheating

If you get nudged, you go down in the box

By Paul Scholes

When Gary Cahill looks back at his dive against Hull City at the weekend he will have his regrets, but, watching it a few times on television, I know what was going through his mind.

He was expecting the challenge to come and was anticipating the impact. And then when it didn't, it became an embarrassing dive.

No-one wants to see diving or cheating in the game, but there is a very fine line to be trodden.

If you get nudged, pushed or tripped in the area, you have to go down. We were told that by Sir Alex before every game.

We were never told to dive, and there is a big difference.

Winning penalties is part of scoring goals, and trying to stay on your feet no matter what makes no sense. A foul is a foul, and it changes the outcome of the original chance.

Some players are very good at turning a foul on them into a penalty decision that the referee has no choice but to give. Others are terrible at it, and it would be fair to say that Cahill has not quite mastered the art.

I felt that one of my strengths was nicking the ball away from defenders in the penalty area.

It was about being cute. If you moved the ball away from where they were headed and paused fractionally, then there was a good chance that the defender would be unable to stop himself, and take you out.

There are two penalties I won for United that stand out in my mind.

The first was Tomas Repka's challenge on me at Upton Park in 2002 in a 5-3 win for United. The other is Igor Biscan's foul on me at Old Trafford in a 4-0 win over Liverpool in 2003.

On both occasions I got to the ball first and the defender was not quick enough to stop himself ploughing into me. That is a foul anywhere else on the pitch, and therefore a penalty in the area.

Congratulations to the newly retired Thierry Henry on a fine career. It is rare that you get a striker with speed and composure in equal measure but Henry had both.

He could flummox a defender with his pace and then had the presence of mind to slot the ball past the goalkeeper. He was a wonderful footballer.

Henry's goal against United at Highbury in 2000 was among the best of the lot. Unfortunately for us, Sir Alex had warned us before the game about Arsenal playing the ball into Henry's feet from short free-kicks.

Sure enough, when we came to review the video of that marvellous goal, there was yours truly ambling across to try to block the ball going into Henry. Before we knew it, he had flicked it up and volleyed it into our net.

Playing against him was difficult, to say the least. And while we always had a plan, there is no way you go into a game against a player of Henry's quality with a foolproof approach to keeping him quiet.

We had top-class centre-halves and some days they could stop him, other times not. He would sometimes go wide and then it would be Gary Neville's job. To Gary's great credit, I can never recall a time when he found himself embarrassed.

I admired Jamie Carragher as a defender. He was the kind of player who knew how to handle the top strikers.

But even he was caught out by Henry in an FA Cup tie in 2007 at Anfield. Henry out-sprinted Carragher to a ball down by the left touchline, left him on the floor and then turned back towards goal, cut inside on his right foot and scored. Rule No 1 with Henry: don't get in a race with him.

With Henry the key for defenders was to stand off, so that if he did fancy a sprint you at least had that extra five yards on him. The problem was that even then he was dangerous.

He might just decide to go for goal. He was a brilliant centre-forward and he won the lot: World Cup, European championships, European Cup, Premier League, Spanish league, French league, FA Cup. That is some career.

I am tipping Manchester City to eliminate Barcelona from the Champions League over two legs. Of course, much depends on form and injuries at the end of February, but I think the approach used by Manuel Pellegrini against Roma worked well. It will mean he starts with a midfield core of Fernando, Fernandinho and James Milner and then picks players around that to make it work.

Chelsea have the hardest draw to my mind. They have got better since last season but so too have Paris Saint-Germain and they will be that much more experienced in Europe. I expect all three English clubs to go through, but it will be tight.

Source Independent

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