Saturday’s Manchester derby saw passions in the stands boil over as Manchester United midfielder Fred was hit by an object thrown from the crowd.
With Manchester City trailing 2-0 with around a third of the match still to play, United’s Fred and Jesse Lingard protested to match referee Anthony Taylor as objects including lighters and water bottles were being thrown onto the pitch as they prepared to take a corner.
One object appeared to strike Brazilian midfielder Fred on the back of the head, as City fans’ frustrations at a disappointing performance took an unacceptable turn.
The corner was eventually taken as the shower of missiles being targeted at the pitch let up - though both players were still faced by a barrage of insults from the fans by the corner flag.
There was a clear sense of injustice around the Etihad during the game, as City’s faltering Premier League title defence took yet another backwards step.
VAR was at the centre of attention once again with an alleged handball from Fred going unpunished in the first half, though a penalty would have seemed harsh on the midfielder with his arm close to his body as he went to ground and blocked Kyle Walker’s fizzed low cross.
By then, VAR had already given a penalty to Marcus Rashford for the opening goal, after he had been barged over in the penalty area by Bernardo Silva.
United were 2-0 up within half an hour, with Anthony Martial’s precise low finish beating Ederson at his near post as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side moved through City’s porous defence with ease.
There was further bad news on that front for Pep Guardiola as central defender John Stones, brought back into the team in place of Nicolas Otamendi, was forced off with an injury midway through the second half.
Otamendi then gave his team a lifeline with a late headed goal, but United held on for a well-deserved 2-1 win.
The derby had already taken on increased significance before the game, owing to the patchy league form of its two contestants.
Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Bournemouth meant Jurgen Klopp’s side could watch events unfold at the Etihad with their feet up and a 14-point gap to City to enjoy.
Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at Everton, meanwhile, presented United with an opportunity to close the gap to the top four.