Sir Alex reckoned it was probably the first time in your life you had been heavily criticised in your footballing career...
Yes and sometimes I think the criticism has gone beyond football and been more personal. All this stuff about me talking to the people of Lazio at the end of the season [about a transfer], fighting after the match against Bayer Leverkusen... that kind of thing. It's all rubbish. It's not a football criticism. It goes beyond that and it upsets the relationship I've got with people here. Fans might believe what they read in the papers but they don't know the truth.
You must be quite pleased they've introduced transfer windows so the speculation has died down about you leaving the club...
[Laughs] Yes, until January at least!
How important has Sir Alex's support been?
I'm really grateful for the manager's support. He has been behind me at all times. He has defended me against criticism when maybe I wasn't playing well and he continued to pick me in the team when I know I wasn't playing so well. His support surprised me a bit because normally you don't get managers continually backing their players when things are going badly. That meant a lot to me and gave me the impetus to try even harder this season, to strive for the best level I can possibly achieve.
Fans love to see your individual skills. Were you born with them or did it take practice?
[Laughs] Well, I broke a lot of windows at my house when I was growing up. And not just my house but the neighbours' too! But yes, I had some natural ability and, with training and hard work, you get better and better.
Roy Keane has always been regarded as the playmaker of this United team, as you are with Argentina. Have you relished the extra responsibility of taking that role while he has been injured?
First and foremost, I don't really agree with your statement. I enjoy it wherever I play. I don't enjoy playing in a position at someone else's expense and I don't like to take