Pundits have slammed Manchester United captain Bruno Fernandes after an necessary booking ruled him out of next weekend's mammoth clash with Liverpool.
Fernandes collected his fifth yellow card of the season during a demoralising 3-0 defeat against Bournemouth at Old Trafford, getting cautioned for dissent.
Questioning the disciplinary record of the notoriously petulant playmaker, former Liverpool and United striker Michael Owen has joked that Fernandes made the conscious decision to get booked, so to miss an ever-intense Anfield clash.
Owen told Premier League Productions: "Possibly you don’t fancy going to Anfield. I wouldn’t at the moment.
"I’m not sure you’re thinking of the next game when you’re in the thick of playing. He should be responsible; he should be a good ambassador and a leader for the team.
“I wonder how many yellow cards he’s had for dissent and waving his arms about. We all know referees are clamping down on that and he gets booked an awful lot for a player who hardly puts his foot in and tackles. Really, he gets booked an awful lot.”
While it seemed Owen was willing to give the Portuguese international the benefit of the doubt, Richard Keys was much less forgiving when giving his take on the incident - believing the booking could easily have been premeditated.
Keys said: "If we're all agreed that if he knew he got booked he would miss the game, I can't think of any other scenario whereby I could allow him the room to manoeuvre on that and say 'it was a heated moment'. It wasn't.
"I think he knew he gets booked and misses the game. That, for me, sums him up. He is not a captain, he is not a leader and his position there has been questioned by proper Manchester United captains."
Former United defender Phil Neville was having none of this, however, and hit back at Keys' claims with a vengeance.
"I think that's ridiculous talk - whoever said that in public is a disgrace," Neville said. "If you look at Bruno Fernandes, I love Bruno Fernandes, he cares about Manchester United.
"Look at the teams in the top six, that's the one player I'd take. Look at the one player who comes out after a defeat - it's Bruno Fernandes.
"Captains over the years have played like Bruno Fernandes. Roy Keane whinged and whined like Bruno Fernandes. In this team, he's the best player, he plays right wing, centre midfield and he just gets on with it because he cares about the club."
The Reds take on their arch-rivals next Sunday, with kick-off at 4:30pm GMT.