David Moyes has demanded greater protection for Adnan Januzaj and told the Manchester United teenager he must learn from Lionel Messi's example of how to handle being "kicked up and down".
Fulham's Sascha Riether was charged with violent conduct by the Football Association on Monday for apparently stamping on the 18-year-old during Saturday's match at Craven Cottage. The German defender is the first player to be charged under a new pilot scheme where three former referees – Steve Dunn, Eddie Wolstenholme and Alan Wiley – review video evidence of "not seen" incidents in Premier League games. Riether has until 6pm on Tuesday to respond to the charge.
Moyes missed the controversy in the final minute at Fulham, as did the referee, Lee Probert, but, having reviewed the incident, he believes Riether deliberately targeted Januzaj. The United manager fears that sort of treatment has been reserved for the teenager in other matches, with Southampton's Morgan Schneiderlin and José Fonte plus Stephen Ireland and Wilson Palacios of Stoke City booked for fouling Januzaj in recent weeks, and believes referees are not offering sufficient protection.
Speaking before United's Champions League group game at Real Sociedad, and before confirmation of Riether's charge, Moyes said: "I hadn't seen it until after the game, the view from the dugout made it impossible to see, but it's a bad stamp and it does look deliberate.
"It's over now but I do think Adnan is going to need a little bit more protection or we are going to find he is getting kicked up and down. I do think he deserves a little bit more than he is getting at this time."
Moyes wants Januzaj to learn to ride any roughhouse tactics, however, and not respond with theatrics. He believes Messi offers the perfect example. Moyes said: "We have spoken to him about it. I have got to say he gets kicked up and down in training every day and gets on with it. He's learned from the good professionals that he's got to get on with it.
"He only needs to look at Lionel Messi who is probably the best in the world at getting kicked, getting up and getting on with it and continuing to produce magic all the time. I'm not in any way comparing Adnan to Lionel Messi, so don't be saying that, but I'm certainly saying the way Lionel Messi gets up after being kicked, we hope that's the way Adnan continues to behave too. But he does need a little bit of protection. Somewhere along the line if he is going to continue playing in the fashion and style we want he'll need to get protection. It's up to referees to do what they think is right."
United would move to within a point of qualification for the Champions League knockout phase with victory at Anoeta, and travelled to San Sebastian without the injured defenders Rafael da Silva and Jonny Evans. Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Patrice Evra also have fitness concerns but are in the squad. Real Sociedad are without a point in Group A and could be eliminated but have, like United, improved domestically and moved into seventh place in La Liga with a 5-0 defeat of Osasuna on Saturday, their biggest league win for a decade.
"I certainly won't take anything for granted," Moyes said. "I have a lot of respect for Sociedad. We will have to play well if we are going to get those 10 points which will get us over the line, but we have got ourselves in a good position in the group and we have to try to maintain that. I feel we are playing better now and getting some good results to go with it and long may that continue."
United have a poor record in Spain, winning only two of 21 fixtures at La Liga opponents, and Moyes has not taken any advice on improving that sequence from Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography, which he was pictured bringing on the journey to the Basque region. "I've not read it yet. I've not opened a page," he said.