Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini has been branded a "thug" by former Premier League referee and BT Sport pundit Howard Webb following his actions in the UEFA Europa League clash with Liverpool on Thursday.
The Belgian was fortunate to escape sanction in the first leg after tussling with Emre Can, and he received only a yellow card in the second leg despite appearing to elbow Can again and then Dejan Lovren.
Per PA Sport (h/t ESPN FC), Webb said on BT Sport:
It's one thing imposing yourself on the game, but another thing being a thug on the pitch.
[Fellaini] can't play without throwing his elbows around. I think he should have been suspended for [the incident in the first leg,] but UEFA never looked at it.
This ongoing battle with Can continues: he throws an arm—reckless in my opinion, not violent, worth a yellow card.
Fellaini was booked for the elbow on Lovren in the second half, but Webb believes it should have been a straight red:
But this one's a red card. Dejan Lovren is holding him—is that an excuse to throw an arm? No, of course not.
He clenches his fist, he puts force into the elbow, the point of the elbow into the back of the head, and he should have been sent off.
We know what Fellaini's about when we're refereeing. We've seen it all throughout his career, but he seems to be getting worse and worse.
Week in, week out, he can't get through a game without violently throwing his arm into people's faces.
He should have been sent off, pure and simple. He gets away with it week in, week out—I think people are getting a little bit fed up of it.
Webb said as much during the game, per BT Sport Football:
Two-thirds of those who voted in BT Sport's poll agreed with the former referee:
Kevin Palmer of the Sunday World shared a picture of Webb, who gave his analysis of the refereeing incidents throughout and after the game on BT Sport:
Palmer believes Fellaini may not escape sanction in the future, with referees now aware of his physical style of play:
Countless journalists and pundits alike picked up on his actions throughout the match:
Fellaini's finishing is nowhere near as deadly as his elbows.— Jim Beglin (@jimbeglin) March 17, 2016
Fellaini elbow already. Outrageous player.— Paul Tomkins (@paul_tomkins) March 17, 2016
It's incredible how often Fellaini gets away with stray elbows. Booked for elbowing Lovren, should have been a red— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) March 17, 2016
I've never ever seen a player use his elbows as much as Fellaini.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 17, 2016
Fellaini clatters Lovren with his elbow and gets a yellow card. It's almost as if he can't help himself. Ridiculous.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) March 17, 2016
You've got to hand it to Fellaini - his talent for elbowing opponents matched only by his ability to get away with it— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) March 17, 2016
Even Bleacher Report UK got in on the act:
Marouane Fellaini’s elbow greeting a face: as constant as gravity. pic.twitter.com/sAZmWFpn5N— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) March 17, 2016
Should Fellaini have been sent off?
The 28-year-old is known for his physical style of play, but, as Webb noted, his clashes with Can and Lovren arguably deserved a stronger punishment than the solitary yellow card he received.
Fellaini is perhaps not helped by his height (6'4") and slightly ungainly body positions, but he's involved in these incidents with such regularity it's hard to give him the benefit of the doubt.
After his use of elbows came to the fore over the two legs with Liverpool, it won't be surprising if Premier League referees pay him closer attention during scraps for the ball, and like players who acquire the label of being a diver, he may find himself harshly punished for something innocuous because of his reputation preceding him.