Players must police diving teammates

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This week has been a difficult one for Ashley Young, whose apparent on-field dishonesty has caused quite a stir in the football world ever since last Sunday's encounter with Aston Villa.

Manchester United were awarded a penalty after Ciaran Clark was adjudged to have fouled Young in the area, but replays suggest Young deliberately deceived the referee in order to gain his team an advantage.

It was not the first time Young is believed to have indulged in the dark arts this season; his tumble prompted Lee Mason to show Shaun Derry of Queens Park Rangers a red card in United's previous home encounter.

Young's antics have split public and professional opinion, with some claiming he ought to harbour more integrity, and others suggesting players should do all they can in order to help their team.

Sir Alex Ferguson certainly feels his player is gaining an undesirable reputation, and revealed on Friday that he had spoken privately to Young in the hope of prompting him to curb his play-acting.

"If [Clark] doesn't bring him down Ashley's going to score," the United boss told his weekly press conference. "It was a clear goalscoring opportunity and he did catch him.

"I'm not sure Ashley tried to get the penalty kick but he certainly went down quickly. I've had a word with Ashley and he understands where we're coming from. Hopefully it makes a difference."

It is, of course, not only Young who has attracted the ire of many with his on-field feigning, but Chelsea striker Didier Drogba come under scrutiny for flimsily-limbed performance against Barcelona.

The was an element of comedy about the way the Ivorian frequently collapsed to the turf, face scrunched in anguish, much to the frequent despair of the Barca players.

But there is no escaping that Drogba's antics contravened the code of conduct as a professional footballer, something which English players have often boasted to uphold.

However, in the case of Young, this does not appear to be happening and, after the influence of his manager, it is now down to the 26-year-old's teammates to further reinforce the point.

Wayne Rooney has already registered his despair of sorts at the behaviour of Drogba, tweeting to ask the 34-year-old to 'please get up' during Chelsea's victory over Barca.

The reputation of his teammate Young, meanwhile, is already significantly tarnished in the eyes of some - perhaps most notably Newcastle defender Ryan Taylor, who branded the former Aston Villa forward a 'cheat'.

Taylor tweeted: "Ashley Young is an absolute DISGRACE. He’s the biggest cheat in the league. His antics are a joke…."

Being labelled a 'cheat' is the greatest taboo for a professional sportsperson, and will be an accusation Young is desperate to avoid ever again.

As Gary Neville said in his quite brilliant analysis on Monday Night Football, diving in football is an 'epidemic', and something that is difficult to police for governing bodies, particularly when players encourage contact from the opposition.

It is naive to assume that it can be stamped out of the game but, as Manchester United's senior players will do with Young, it is down to the players themselves to ensure this problem does not continue to escalate.

It becomes a particularly difficult issue when authorities become involved and retrospective bans are introduced in order to quell the current pet hate of the game.

Yet, although it will not prevent all players from deliberately deceiving match officials, the influence of colleagues is one that should not be underestimated in the bid to rid the game of supposed cheats.

Rooney has already gone public to criticise players with questionable integrity, and it is now time he, and others, do so in private to prevent this 'epidemic' becoming more widespread.

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