In the hours after Manchester United's comfortable victory over Aston Villa, Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Ashley Young "played for the penalty" which saw his side secure a comfortable 4-0 victory over Aston Villa and move five points cleat at the top of the Premier League.

Young won a controversial penalty for United when he fell in dramatic fashion under contact from Ciaran Clark after six minutes. And the England international has garnered criticism from former Premier League referee for the manner in which he went down.

"Ashley Young won Manchester United another penalty with skill that was too good for Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark; then he dived in an exaggerated fall to make sure that Mark Halsey gave the spot kick," Graham Poll told the Daily Mail.

Ashley Young
Manchester United midfielder Ashley Young has won more penalties than any other in the Premier League since the 2010/11 season. REUTERS

TV replays showed there was contact between the pair but Young has been criticised for his melodramatic fall, which comes just a week after his disputed penalty against QPR that earned Shaun Derry a red card.

And last night Manchester United boss Ferguson admitted his midfielder is garnering an unwanted reputation for simulation but insisted that the penalty call was correct.

"I think he played for the penalty," Ferguson is quoted in the Telegraph. "If the player decides to put his foot in and doesn't straighten his own feet and read the situation, then he's fallen into that.

"He's there for the taking. I think it was a dramatic fall, I think maybe he overdid the fall. But it was a penalty; there was no doubt about that. I don't think there can be any complaints as he does take him."

Nevertheless, Poll believes there was no need for the Manchester United midfielder to fall in such an extravagant manner and implored the Football Association to enforce retrospective bans for those found guilty of diving.

"Clark catches Young's right foot when stretching to play the ball which technically makes it a foul and a penalty," said Poll.

"The way Young then drags his trailing left leg into Clark, drawing contact with the defender is not a foul and without that initial contact with his right foot, he would have been booked for simulation.

"Arsene Wenger has called for retrospective bans for those found guilty of diving and I would agree with him although I am not sure that it would stop players from taking a chance and diving. This is a win at all costs game now with huge rewards and players might well think it would be worth being banned it if they secure their team the three points."

Poll added: "It is a real pity that our game had developed in such a way and that the slightest of touches often results in a theatrical fall. Lionel Messi will not play in such a way and tries to ride tackles, often heavy ones. Perhaps he has the confidence in his ability to score rather than win free kicks and penalties that others do not possess."