Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho pointed the finger at Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero for accentuating contact and earning Marouane Fellaini a late dismissal as the Champions League-chasers played out a goalless draw.
Fellaini was shown a straight red card by referee Martin Atkinson with six minutes remaining after appearing to headbutt Aguero and is now set to miss matches against Swansea, Arsenal and Tottenham.
City chalked up a total of 19 shots, although clear-cut chances were limited, compared to United’s three, while the visitors enjoyed just 31 per cent possession as they extended their unbeaten league run to 24 matches. The stalemate kept fourth-placed City a point ahead of United in the Premier League with five games to play.
“I spoke with Marouane, who is very disappointed. He feels it is a red card because it is Marouane Fellaini,” said Mourinho. “I spoke with Martin [Atkinson] who told him that, in his opinion, it’s a red card.
“I didn’t watch but I can guess that it is a bit of a red card and a bit of a very experienced, smart Argentinian player.”
While City manager Pep Guardiola was again frustrated with his side’s inability to convert chances, he insisted he had “no regrets” over the result but was adamant there is no further room for error.
“Every game until the last game now will be a final,” said the Spaniard. “We have the talent but it’s not easy with so many [United] players behind the ball.
“We all have tough games coming up now and we know it’s not an option to not win these games. Every game is important.”
Aguero had scored eight goals in 10 appearances for City against United but he spurned the game’s opening chance on 10 minutes when he clipped the outside of the post from close range following Kevin de Bruyne’s cross.
United’s maiden opportunity followed a quarter of an hour later when much-maligned City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo unnecessarily flapped at a deflected Anthony Martial cross, but he redeemed himself by thwarting Henrikh Mkhitaryan from the rebound.
The visitors threatened again on the stroke of half-time as a flying Ander Herrera steered his diving header from Marcus Rashford’s inswinging free-kick from the left flank wide of Bravo’s goal.
Belgium midfielder Fellaini was given a straight red card – his third in English football and second for United – inside the final 10 minutes for headbutting Aguero, moments after receiving the first caution of the clash.
City turned the screw in the dying embers of the contest and thought they had conjured a winner, only for substitute Gabriel Jesus’s injury-time effort to be ruled out for offside, while Aguero fluffed his side’s final opening.