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Mark Hughes claims Craig Bellamy acted in self-defence

Mark Hughes has mounted a vigorous defence of Craig Bellamy's actions during Sunday's stormy derby, claiming the Manchester City striker was largely blameless in his confrontation with a fan at Old Trafford.

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The Football Association and Greater Manchester Police are both investigating an incident in which Bellamy appeared to shove in the face a Manchester United supporter who entered the field of play following Michael Owen's late winner.

If Bellamy is charged with violent conduct then a three-match ban could be forthcoming but Hughes is ready to defend his striker should the FA seek an explanation.

"All Craig has done is go over there and tell the guy to get off the pitch,'' said Hughes. "Craig wasn't privy to how much time was left to enable us to get back into the game.

"The guy made an aggressive move towards him and Craig wanted to get him off the pitch. Craig just put a defensive hand out to push him away. You can never be quite sure what is going to happen in those situations.

"We have not been contacted by the FA but if we are, that is what we will say.''

Despite referee Mark Atkinson deciding that four extra minutes would be played, Owen's strike came six minutes into injury time as United secured a memorable 4-3 victory. But Michael Carrick's arrival as a substitute and City's celebrations following Bellamy's equaliser had ensured that the period of added time was prolonged.

Hughes, who was angered by the sight of Owen scoring so late in the game, believes clarification is required regarding the nature of injury time.

"Going over it again just makes the debate go on even longer,'' Hughes said. "But I do think we need some clarification because there is some confusion. I am not particularly advocating this but maybe if you had a different system where someone else took over the time-keeping, it might help."

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