Martin O'Neill has called for Aston Villa winger Ashley Young to be given greater protection by officials as he battles to be fit for Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash at Everton.
Young's outstanding form during the past 18 months has led to him coming under closer scrutiny from defenders, who often double up on the former Watford player in a bid to nullify his pace and trickery.
And O'Neill admitted: "In an ideal world, it would be better for him to get more protection."
Young came in for particularly rough treatment during Thursday's UEFA Cup clash with MSK Zilina at Villa Park and ended the game limping heavily after a knock to his calf.
O'Neill has observed how Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo should be aided by officials when on the receiving end of unlawful challenges and feels Young would benefit if referees looked upon him in the same light.
The former Celtic boss said: "I notice Sir Alex talks about Ronaldo and getting protection and (Manchester City manager) Mark Hughes talks about Shaun Wright-Phillips getting a rough time of it.
"Ashley does get fouled a lot and he has a calf injury after Thursday. He got plenty of rough treatment in the UEFA Cup game and I kind of expect it but he picks himself up and gets on with it."
O'Neill is hoping Young's never-ending desire to play will mean he is able to face David Moyes' side.
The Villa chief said: "We think it is just a kick. He was limping towards the end of the game but he has got a fantastic heart.
"Will he be fit? The great thing about Ashley is he wants to play. He wants to play in the five-a-sides, everything. I am hoping it will be okay."
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