Wayne Rooney apologised to Preston goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann after tumbling to the ground to win a penalty in Manchester United's 3-1 FA Cup victory on Monday.
Rooney came in for criticism for going down too easily when challenged by Stuckmann to win the spot-kick that put the tie to bed and help the Red Devils set up a quarter-final showdown against Arsenal at Old Trafford next month.
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal was forced to defend Rooney over the incident, while Preston boss Simon Grayson admitted afterwards that 'it wasn't a dive', although insisted that the penalty was a 'soft one'. England boss Roy Hodgson also leapt to the defence of the 29-year-old.
However according to the Mirror, the Manchester United striker went out of his way to apologise to Stuckmann, who was booked for his challenge, over the incident. “At the end of the game, Rooney went over to Thorsten and said, ‘Sorry, but I saw you coming and I had to get out of the way’,” said a Preston insider according to the newspaper.
Manchester United fell behind in the game at Deepdale after Scott Laird's shot squirmed past David de Gea early on in the second half. Midfielder Ander Herrera started the comeback with 25 minutes left, before Marouane Fellaini put his side ahead with a close range strike. Rooney slammed home his controversial penalty with two minutes of normal time left to set up a date with the Gunners.
The goal was Rooney's first in 2015 after more than 950 minutes of football, but experts were split over the penalty incident. Gary Lineker tweeted: "A dive? Yes. A reckless challenge? Yes. An interesting one.”
The debate over diving has reached a tipping point where it is now seemingly possible to dive and legally win a penalty at the same time. No wonder fans are confused - perhaps it's time to roll back the protection top stars receive and let real tackles back into the game, that should see the end of this unwanted phenomenon in no time.