Manchester, March 11: Jose Mourinho substituted Manchester United matchwinner Marcus Rashford against Liverpool as he was afraid referee Craig Pawson would follow the advice of pundit Gary Neville and send the striker off.
Rashford scored both United goals in a 2-1 win over their bitter rivals at Old Trafford on Saturday (March 10), giving Mourinho's men a five-point cushion over the Reds in second place in the Premier League table.
Covering the game for Sky Sports, former United and England full-back Neville said he felt Rashford could have been sent off, the 20-year-old having been booked for a late foul on James Milner.
Rashford ran into the crowd to celebrate after scoring, with the England international also catching defender Dejan Lovren with a badly-timed challenge in a fiery first-half spell.
And Mourinho - who has regularly hit out at pundits this season - aimed a dig at Neville in his post-match news conference, the manager having been booed by some United fans for substituting Rashford for Marouane Fellaini immediately after Eric Bailly's own goal gave Liverpool a lifeline.
"The fans, they can do what they want," Mourinho said. "I am not upset at all with that reaction.
"At half-time someone told me Gary Neville was asking Marcus Rashford to get a red card so I was scared the referee was watching.
"Where Liverpool brought a lot of players to the central area of the pitch, Marcus Rashford was defending the corridor against Alexander-Arnold.
"And with the yellow card and the pressure of Gary, I made the decision to play a player who could get a yellow."
Rashford's goals were the only shots on target recorded by United in their victory and Mourinho felt it was important for the Wythenshawe-born striker to score in the rival clash.
"It was good for Marcus, good for us," Mourinho told MUTV. "I think it's special for him.
"Local boy, you know that better than me. A local boy, Academy boy, to score against Liverpool at Old Trafford is a special feeling for him.
"If he could choose to score goals against somebody, I am pretty sure he would choose to score against Liverpool."