Juan Mata’s character should have been taken into account by referee Mike Dean before he sent off the midfielder, says Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal.
United played with 10 men for more than an hour in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to West Brom at The Hawthorns.
Mata had never previously been sent off in the Premier League, but was booked twice in the space of three minutes.
“The referee has to know the person who makes the tackle and that Mata never hurts an opponent,” said Van Gaal.
The Spain international, 27, was shown his first yellow card for blocking Darren Fletcher’s quick free-kick, then given a second when he clipped the heels of the former United midfielder.
Referee Dean, who has been a top-flight official since 2000, had little hesitation in producing a card for each offence.
“You can give the two bookings according to the rules but I think the referee needs to know the player who is doing that,” added Van Gaal.
“The referee has to decide within one second but you know that Mata never hurts another player.
“That’s why an experienced referee is always better because he knows the players better, he knows the game better and so on.
“I think you take that into account.”
Big blow to top-four hopes – Van Gaal
Defeat against 11th-placed Albion – United’s first league loss at The Hawthorns since 1984 – has hampered their late quest for Champions League qualification.
Van Gaal appeared to concede defeat in the race for the top four following last month’s 2-1 loss at Sunderland.
But consecutive wins against Arsenal and Watford, coupled with rival teams dropping points, meant they would have moved level with fourth-placed Manchester City by beating West Brom.
However, they remain sixth in the Premier League table after the narrow loss.
“It’s a big blow because these kind of matches you have to win,” said Van Gaal.