Marouane Fellaini believes he has been unfairly cast as the villain and ‘a murderer’ in English football as he ponders his next career move.
Manchester United’s Belgium midfielder will be out of contract at the end of the season and is waiting for an improved offer from the club.
He will be free to open talks with foreign clubs on Monday with Besiktas showing interest.
Fellaini’s awkward playing style has split opinion among United fans since he joined from Everton for £27.5million in 2013.
His combative approach has also brought criticism away from United, though he has been sent off only three times — latterly for butting Sergio Aguero in April’s Manchester derby.
Fellaini, 30, also collected a retrospective three-match ban last year for elbowing Robert Huth after the Leicester defender pulled his hair.
Fellaini said this reputation is undeserved in an interview with Belgian magazine Humo.
‘They have labelled me an aggressive player, a murderer,’ he said. ‘Look, I’m fanatical. The team that wants it the hardest wins but there have been times when I came out as the villain.
‘What should I do if they pull me by the hair? It sounds like a joke, but it really hurts. I was suspended for a headbutt against Aguero. He stepped towards me and then dropped dead. But, no, I get the red.
‘Players try to provoke me but do you know how many yellow cards I collected last season? Four, in 45 matches. ’
Fellaini, out until the new year with a knee injury sustained on Belgium duty, pointed to what he describes as an attack on him by Shane Long when United won at Southampton in September.
‘He could have broken my leg,’ said Fellaini. ‘Without the tape around my ankle, it was broken and I’d have been out for six months. If I did that, I’d be suspended for three games, maybe five. He got a yellow.’
Fellaini insists he has learned to handle the criticism that followed his move to United as a symbol of the David Moyes era, and a rollercoaster Old Trafford career since then under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
‘I no longer need to prove anything,’ he said. ‘Until that first year in Manchester I’d never been under fire. Suddenly it happened, and I was not good at that.’
Ironically, Fellaini’s future is in doubt at a time when he is valued more highly than ever by manager Mourinho.
United have offered to improve his £120,000-a-week deal but he wants about £170,000.
‘If United didn’t want me any more, they would have said so a long time ago,’ he added. ‘They made a proposal and another one will probably follow. I don’t know if I will acceptt. You don’t decide this in a hurry.’