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Hodgson defends Torres and points the finger at Nani

Roy Hodgson believes Sir Alex Ferguson's criticism of Fernando Torres last weekend was designed as a smokescreen to draw attention away from the conduct of Manchester United winger Nani.

• Ferguson takes aim at Torres

Ferguson sparked controversy following United's 3-2 win over Liverpool at Old Trafford when accusing Torres of "making a meal" of a challenge from John O'Shea and attempting to get the United man sent off.

However, Hodgson says the Spanish striker is not inclined to deceiving referees and that the behaviour of Nani should instead be under scrutiny.

"Alex knows how to use the media, and he might well have used it there to deflect from Nani, who was certainly playing for fouls on one or two occasions," Hodgson said. "Fernando has proved time and again that he is no cheat. He is strong and takes players on, and he is going to get fouls, like for the stonewall penalty and free-kick that brought us an equaliser.

"Maybe I should have spoken up straight after the game, but I didn't think it was necessary, because it would have been insulting people's intelligence. For me, it was one of Alex's inflammatory little digs to make his victory even sweeter and our defeat even harder."

Hodgson is a man under pressure following a disappointing start to the Premier League season and a shock Carling Cup result that saw an understrength Liverpool side knocked out of the competition by League Two Northampton Town in midweek.

Despite working under difficult financial constraints, Hodgson has taken full responsibility for an unexpected penalty shoot-out defeat at Anfield and says his regular first-team players should not be stigmatised following the cup exit.

"We had a training session with 13 players who were not involved against Northampton, and I told them it was a bad moment for the club which, unfortunately, was of my making, because I went with a team that underperformed and lost," Hodgson said.

"I told them it had nothing to do with them, because they were not even on the bench. If any of it transfers on to them, that is unfair. There would be pressure anyway, after five points from five games, and we are living through a moment of my own making, which people are profiting from.

"They seem to be enjoying themselves enormously by writing things about the club that they, themselves, probably don't believe. Wednesday had nothing to do with the players who will play tomorrow [Saturday], and I don't think their confidence will change one iota. But when something like this happens, it is a major blow, and you just have to take the criticism."

Discontent continues to swirl around Anfield with unpopular American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett still in situ. Fans group Spirit of Shankly are planning protests both before and after Saturday's game against Sunderland and next week's fixture against Blackpool, but Hodgson has warned that public shows of discontent will not be beneficial.

"The protest does not help but it is something I have had to live with since I came to the club," he said. "I, like everyone else at Liverpool, would be very happy if the ownership situation was clarified and in particular if we got a very good owner that could help us move forward. It is a major issue for a group of people who are very much anti the owners and anti the current people who are trying to solve the situation.

"I knew the situation existed before I arrived and it doesn't help. But it is often the case that when things are conspiring against you there is always an extra thing to come in and make it that little bit worse. It tests our mettle, our desire and strength. I am very confident that the strength of this club, the strength of the playing staff and the people around me is more than enough to come through this period."


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