West Brom captain Darren Fletcher insists he did not try to force the referee to send off Juan Mata in his side’s 1-0 Premier League win over Manchester United.
The Spain international collected two yellow cards in the space of three minutes for blocking Fletcher’s free-kick and then tripping his former team-mate as he attempted to launch a counter-attack.
Fletcher says his appeals to referee Mike Dean were simply done in the heat of the moment and admitted West Brom struggled to make the most of their advantage until Salomon Rondon struck a second-half winner.
“It was the ref’s decision. I tried to play a quick free-kick and got blocked and then tried to start a counter-attack and got tripped. It’s the ref’s decision,” he told Sky Sports.
“I thought we looked flat when they went to 10, we almost didn’t know what to do, but the advantage of 11 against 10 seemed to get us through in the end and Salomon’s got a fantastic winner.
“I appealed because it’s spur of the moment in the game. It’s an automatic reaction, you’re not looking to get anyone sent off.”
Fletcher said he was “desperate” to seal a win against United, but claimed he is eager for his former employers to recover swiftly and seal a top-four spot.
“When you’re playing against your old club you are desperate to win,” he added. “You hope United have great success and I hope they bounce back and go on to reach the top four, but my first thought now is West Brom.
“First and foremost it takes us to 39 points, one more from 40 and then we will look to keep going. I thought to a man our team performance all round the pitch was fantastic.”