Louis van Gaal defended Marouane Fellaini after the Manchester United midfielder found himself at the centre of another elbowing controversy in the 1-1 Premier League draw against champions-elect Leicester City.
Wes Morgan cancelled out Anthony Martial’s early opener at Old Trafford and United struggled to combat the set-piece threat brought by the visiting captain throughout a game that saw them lose ground on Arsenal in the race for a top-four spot.
But a flashpoint occurred on a United set-piece before half-time when Fellaini – regularly criticised for his use of the elbow throughout his time in English football – struck Robert Huth in the jaw and again swung for his opponent’s face after the German defender appeared to pull his hair.
The incident went unpunished by referee Michael Oliver, leaving open the prospect of retrospective action from the Football Association, and Van Gaal felt Fellaini’s reaction was entirely understandable.
“When you see what Huth is doing with Fellaini it is a penalty,” he told Sky Sports, before attempting to involve his interviewer in a physical re-enactment of the incident.
“Shall I grab you with your hair? What is your reaction? Your hair is much shorter.
“I think [Fellaini’s] is a normal reaction. Every human being grabbed with the hair would react in this way.
“Grabbed with the hair, only with sex, masochism [is that okay].”
He added: “Huth was the one who grabbed the hair of Fellaini. I think the action of Fellaini is the action of a human being. It is always like that.”
Van Gaal retains hope of securing Champions League qualification although his team were seven and four points behind Arsenal and Manchester City respectively at full-time, with their crosstown rivals taking on Southampton later on Sunday.
“I think we played one of our best matches of the season and it was not enough,” he said. “We created a lot of chances
“You have to score and they scored off a set play again. They are very dangerous with that, we know that.
“We are still in the race but it is a lot tougher.”