You described last season as a 'catastrophe'. Are you enjoying yourself more this year?
When you compare it with last season, it's going well, yeah. But I don't want to start with 10 good games and then have 40 bad ones. I want to progress steadily so I can end the season on a high rather than the other way around as it was last year.
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.