‘I am not a dirty player’ – Liverpool star was shown red card and dragged off the pitch against Man United

Today marks 14 years since Javier Mascherano was “dragged” off the pitch against Manchester United following his red card in a disastrous day for Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool.

The Reds endured an afternoon to forget at Old Trafford as liverpool lost 3-0 to their bitter rivals. An unlikely goal from Wes Brown in the first-half kick-started a dismal display, which was made even worse when Mascherano was given his marching orders, just ten minutes later.

Referee Steve Bennett had just booked Fernando Torres for dissent after the forward had complained about being fouled by Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand in quick succession. And despite having seen his team-mate cautioned for the same offence, Mascherano proceeded to take issue with the ref’s decision, which led to him receiving a second yellow.

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However, the incident didn’t pass without further controversy. Being shown a red card served to compound Mascherano’s frustration and the then-23-year-old continued to argue with Bennett before eventually being steered off the pitch by a combination of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Rafa Benitez.

It was this incident that caused the BBC to describe Mascherano as having “completely lost his cool” before the Argentina international was “dragged away by Liverpool players and management”.

And Liverpool’s afternoon only got worse from there. Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side missed several chances before late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani ensured defeat for the Reds against their fierce rivals.

It wasn’t the end of the matter for Mascherano either, who admitted a charge of improper conduct from the FA and was banned for three Premier League games, as well as receiving a £15,000 fine. Though the midfielder maintained his innocence after the final whistle.

“I do not know why I was sent off,” he said. “When the referee showed me the second yellow card and sent me off I could not believe it.”

“I asked the referee what was happening. I did not wear, I was not aggressive and I did not confront him,” Mascherano told the ECHO at the time.

“All I did was ask him what was happening, nothing else. I am sorry to my team-mates because that meant we went down to 10 men. That made things even more difficult for us.”

Rafa Benitez also came to his player’s defence, though he admitted Mascherano had made a mistake in appealing to the official.

“The player knows he has made a mistake, but in this kind of game to be sent off just for ‘asking’ I find a difficult decision to understand,” the Liverpool boss said. “He reacted like he did because he was surprised – I was telling him calm down. However, he made a mistake though by approaching the referee.

“Javier was sent off for dissent, but to be sent off for asking the official something is a surprise.

“Ryan Babel heard everything and told me Mascherano was just asking why Fernando Torres had been booked.He knows he made a mistake, but in a big game like this it is difficult to understand.”

Liverpool did appeal the suspension but it was ultimately rejected. Having headed into the game on a five-game winning streak, the defeat also served as a bitter final blow to the club’s hopes of a title challenge, with the Reds eventually ending the season in fourth spot.

In his apology after accepting the improper conduct charge from the FA, Mascherano said: “I am not a dirty player.”

“I apologise to everyone. I made a mistake and I regret this mistake. It was my fault,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

“I am not a dirty player, I do not make a habit of showing disrespect towards referees, I don’t like this and I can only think the high intensity of the fixture, against Manchester United, affected my behavior that day.

“It was out of character but I do not use that as an excuse.”

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