Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas has defended Ashley Cole and claimed the full-back might not have launched into a nasty tackle on Javier Hernandez if the officials had got earlier decisions right at Old Trafford.
Sir Alex Ferguson is sweating on the extent of Hernandez's injury after the Mexican was forced off near the end of Manchester United's 3-1 Premier League win.
Hernandez went for the rebound after Wayne Rooney had touched the ball against the post but as he slammed a shot into the side-netting, Cole flew in to make his challenge.
It soon became obvious the striker was in trouble and although he was able to get to his feet, he was immediately replaced by Dimitar Berbatov and was hobbling badly as he headed down the tunnel.
Villas-Boas refused to address the tackle directly.
However, after seeing his side badly done to by a couple of narrow offside decisions that went against them for United's first two goals, he felt the dynamic of the game had already been set.
"Maybe he wouldn't get sent off if the linesman does his work," said Villas-Boas. "He would have been less emotionally drained.
"I work the other way round. You are trying to say the referee did something wrong. I cannot forget the previous two.
"If it was 0-0 maybe Ashley is a little bit more mentally in control of the situation and doesn't do the red card foul that you mention."
Not that Villas-Boas' comments will pacify Ferguson much.
He is already without Danny Welbeck, Rio Ferdinand, Fabio and Nemanja Vidic through injury and with Chris Smalling picking up a thigh strain also, finds his squad depleting rapidly.
The fact Hernandez's injury came as a direct result of what he claimed was "a shocking tackle", which referee Phil Dowd felt was only worthy of a booking, just made matters worse.
"It was a shocking tackle," he told MUTV.
"The referee booked him, so I don't understand why he hasn't given a penalty.
"Ashley Cole is very reckless at times. He is committed of course but being committed you can sometimes go over the edge a bit.
"That was an example of that."
The Football Association today confirmed Cole would not face further action. Under FIFA rules, Cole cannot be punished retrospectively because the officials took action to deal with the incident at the time.Reuse content