Marco Silva pleads mercy for Mitrovic after Fulham’s red-card meltdown

The Fulham manager, Marco Silva, has said Aleksandar Mitrovic should be spared a lengthy ban despite pushing the referee, Chris Kavanagh, during a tumultuous 3-1 FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford.

Mitrovic, as well as Silva and Willian, were sent off in the 70th minute after Kavanagh awarded United a penalty for a handball by the Brazilian. The Serb will definitely be suspended for three games for violent conduct but could face a more severe punishment for his actions.

Related: Fulham have three sent off as Fernandes settles stormy tie for Manchester United

Silva was cited the example of Paolo Di Canio who received an 11-game ban for shoving Paul Alcock in 1998, and was asked if Mitrovic might face a similar tariff. “I don’t think so,” the Portuguese said. “I saw the image and I spoke with Mitro, it is a moment for him to control the emotions. He pushed the referee but I hope the people who are going to decide, decide with what the moment deserves.”

During the tie Silva had been unhappy with Mitrovic being denied two penalty shouts himself – for challenges by Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martínez. “[Shaw] has to be obvious, it is clear, it is the first moments of the game, a clear penalty on Mitro, Shaw pushed Mitro,” he said. “OK it is the pressure to play Man United away.”

Mitrovic had given Fulham the lead in the 50th minute but the tie caught fire 20 minutes later. All of the red cards occurred in 40 seconds after Kavanagh was ordered by the VAR to the touchline monitor to review his decision not to award a handball for Willian’s goalline block of Jadon Sancho’s shot.

As Kavanagh arrived Silva threw a water bottle and he was sent off before the referee overturned his decision and awarded a penalty. This meant Willian was also issued a red card before Mitrovic stepped up to Kavanagh, shoved his left arm, and was sent off as Bruno Fernandes equalised from the spot shortly after.

Related: Manchester United 3-1 Fulham: FA Cup quarter-final – as it happened

Silva was critical of the decision to appoint Kavanagh for the game, saying they had an “unhappy” past with the official. “Chris was in a game we played away at West Ham where we lost with two clear handballs, we received the apology because of the mistakes,” he said. “The last game at Leeds in the FA Cup it was him again. And for a game that is the quarter‑finals it’s him again, it’s difficult to understand. Of course we respect that he’s a top referee in this country, I accept that, but unfortunately for us, with us he’s been really unhappy this season.”

Silva may face a fine, at least, for his subsequent comments about Kavanagh. United now face Brighton in the semi-final after Marcel Sabitzer and a second Fernandes strike secured United’s passage to the last four. Manchester City will play Sheffield United in the other semi‑final after the Championship side defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-2.