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Ashley Young was accused last night of conning a referee again as the Manchester United winger was embroiled in another diving controversy.

As United squandered the chance move to the brink of the Champions League knock-out stages, Young appeared to fall theatrically in the area after a challenge from Real Sociedad’s Markel Bergara and though Robin van Persie’s 69th minute penalty struck a post, the player later came under fire from former United captain Roy Keane.

Marouane Fellaini was dismissed in the final minute of a dull, lifeless encounter and although United remain top of Group A, the incident involving Young was the only real talking point, aside from an astonishing second-half miss from Javier Hernández.

This is the last thing Young needs as he battles to save his United career. Sir Alex Ferguson has already admitted in his autobiography to dropping the England international for hitting the deck too easily, while Moyes had a private word after a storm against Crystal Palace in September.

Keane, who was in Spain as a TV pundit, was critical after the game. He said: “Ashley Young has obviously gone down too much over the last few months, he’s been heavily criticised in England, but of course we’re playing in a foreign country and it’s almost more acceptable. But I think he’s conned the referee there.”

Ray Wilkins, another former United player, described the dive as “pathetic” and admitted Young is becoming more renowned for his diving than his football, after 18 months of inconsistent form.

Van Persie’s miss from the spot arguably saved his team-mate from more unwanted attention, yet Moyes suggested he will not be reprimanding the 28-year-old for a second time.

“I have seen it and the boy tugs him in the box,” he said. “The referee is two yards away from it and decides to give it. He’s (Young) got a penalty kick for a decision tonight.

“I don’t know about his reputation, but the referee is there and he gave it. He’s the one who saw fit to award a penalty and send a player off. I thought the referee made decisions and that was the referee’s choice.”

United now go to Bayer Leverkusen later this month with the group considerably more compressed after both games finished goalless. Moyes remains unbeaten in the competition but his team are yet to hammer out a real statement of intent.

He said: “I see it as a missed opportunity to take three points. We are still in a strong position. If we’d won tonight it would have given us a really strong chance of winning the group. We are still top, but I do feel like we’ve missed a chance tonight.”

United’s campaign post-Ferguson has been an inevitable period of transition but qualification for the knock-out stages will have been one of the first boxes Moyes wanted to tick when he took the job.

United arrived here on the back of four successive wins, with the persistent rain and leaden grey skies of San Sebastian ensuring a home from home for Moyes’s players.

Six changes were made from the team that cantered past Fulham on Saturday, with Ryan Giggs making his 950th appearance for the club.

Moyes was clearly mindful of the visit of Arsenal this weekend – a game that will serve as an accurate barometer of progress, following a slow-burner of a start.

Shinji Kagawa flashed a shot wide after an enterprising counter-attack before testing Claudio Bravo, the Sociedad goalkeeper, but the home team gradually grew in confidence, boosted by United’s carelessness in possession.

Fellaini was particularly culpable and struggled in a deep holding midfield role, while the crossing into the Sociedad penalty area from the flanks was, at times, atrocious.

Alberto de la Bella came closest to giving Sociedad the lead in first-half added time when he curled his shot wide, and then Ruben Pardo volleyed off target early in the second period as Moyes began to fidget in his technical area. Kagawa earned a death stare and a growl from the United manager for giving the ball away cheaply.

Kagawa responded to send in a low cross for Hernández but the Mexican inexplicably cleared the goal from six yards, a sure-fire contender for one of the misses of the season.

United had to show more ambition, more menace. Van Persie was introduced shortly after the hour, for a disappointing and frustrated Wayne Rooney, while Young was also sent on to kick some life into a game which was threatening to fizzle out.

It almost paid off instantly. Young was sent scampering down the left and his cross found Van Persie at the far post but his shot came crashing back off the upright.

Then came Young’s moment. He fell under the challenge from Bergara, who was booked, and Moyes was suddenly dreaming of a comfortable night. Van Persie’s penalty was poorly executed, though, and struck the same post he had hit minutes earlier.

Fellaini was then dismissed a minute from time for a second booking as United weathered the storm to earn a point. Unfortunately for Moyes, the post-match inquest centred on Young rather than a job well done.

Source: Telegraph

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