Whelan leaps to defence of Aston Villa star Watkins after 'cheat' claims

Noel Whelan insists Ollie Watkins is not a cheat after he was sent off during Manchester United’s win over Aston Villa. 

The former Leeds United forward, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, claims the forward must have felt something when he went down under the challenge of Dean Henderson.

In the second half of Sunday’s game, Watkins went to ground under the challenge of Henderson as he chased a long ball forward.

The referee thought Watkins had dived in an effort to win a penalty and brandished a second yellow card.

Dean Smith was furious after the game, telling Sky Sports that the decision was ‘pathetic’.

Whelan claims Watkins must have felt contact and insisted the referee could not have been completely sure if he dived.

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“He was naive,” Whelan told Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs.

“Watkins generally doesn’t go down like that. He’s not that kind of player. I’ve seen him take big hits and stay on his feet inside and outside the box. 

“Generally, he a very honest player. It’s difficult to pinpoint whether he simulated it or if he did feel a touch. 

“I would say, he doesn’t cheat. He plays the game the right way. I don’t think he’s the type to go down like that. 

“He must have felt something. Referees need to know the players better. Some players go down easily on a regular basis, he’s not one of them. 

“If it was simulated, maybe it was just a moment of desperation to get back into a game.”

Villa lost 3-1 to Manchester United after goals from Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.

Aston Villa are next in action on Thursday against Everton.

In other news, a finance expert claims Aston Villa’s transfer budget is set to soar amid a near-£100m reveal.