Marouane Fellaini has made the astonishing claim that Pablo Zabaleta was the one at fault for the collision that left the Manchester City star writhing on the floor in agony.
Fellaini somehow evaded a red card during Tuesday’s Manchester derby, despite forcefully ramming his elbow into Zabaleta’s face when the defender closed him down.
101 Great Goals captured the incident in question:
This is what £27 million gets you. Marouane 'Tatmala' Fellaini. BOSH! pic.twitter.com/VXDY2zNu0l— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) March 25, 2014
However, Fellaini has claimed he was merely protecting the ball during the first half at Old Trafford, blaming Zabaleta for crashing his chin into the United player’s elbow.
Per the Daily Mail’s John Edwards:
I certainly didn't do it on purpose. I put my arm up to try and protect possession of the ball, and Zabaleta bounced (his jaw) against it. He was unlucky to make contact.
The movement by me was not in an aggressive manner. It was a defensive move to protect the ball.
Zabaleta had earlier said of Fellaini’s challenge, per the Mirror’s David Anderson: “It was a red card, but at the end of the day we should respect the referee's decision."
Reaction to the incident on Twitter was almost exclusively against Fellaini, who has not endeared himself to the United public since his £27.5 million summer switch from Everton.
The Times’ Oliver Kay and Sky Sports’ Paul Higham both had their say on the Belgian following his challenge:
Fellaini booked for an elbow on Zabaleta. Should have been sent off. Dreadful. He's a strange kind of hard man - it's elbows or nothing.— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) March 25, 2014
Fellaini is garbage, and lucky not to have been sent off, what was Moyes thinking signing that haircut— Paul Higham (@SkySportsPaulH) March 25, 2014
There certainly appeared to be intent on the behalf of Fellaini, judging by the unnatural movement to aim the point of his elbow in the direction of the Argentinian defender.
Soccerway records show Fellaini was booked 12 times during his first year in England, and he has amassed 37 cautions throughout his time in the Premier League.
However, only once has the abrasive midfielder received his marching orders, although many would argue that figure should have doubled against City.
Life has been difficult for Fellaini since joining United. His recent outing against City saw him replaced in the second half after being utterly outclassed by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.
Should Fellaini have been sent off?
As Moyes’ only major signing of the summer, Fellaini stands as something of a symbol of the disastrous campaign United have endured under their manager.
Never blessed with exceptional skill or technique, Fellaini boasts physical presence and is good in the air, but he may need more than that to survive at Old Trafford.
Tuesday’s elbow was likely an attempt to stamp his authority on a game he barely influenced, and he’s fortunate he gets to make amends when United host Aston Villa on Saturday, rather than watching it from the stands.