Manchester United's limp defeat to Liverpool in the Europa League last 16 first leg is expected to compounded by the loss of Marouane Fellaini for the return game at Old Trafford. The Belgium international appeared to elbow Emre Can in the face during stoppage time at Anfield and is in line for a three-match ban after the incident was missed by referee Carlos Velasco Carballo and his team of officials.

Uefa are likely to take swift and immediate action against Fellaini to ensure he is suspended for the second leg on 17 March, while the act of violent conduct – which carries a three-game penalty – would likely see him ruled out for two additional matches which could carry into next season. The 28-year-old missed the first three Premier League games of this campaign after being sent off against Hull City on the final day of last season and faces another spell on the sidelines due to his ill-discipline.

The episode capped a miserable evening for United on Merseyside, as Louis van Gaal's side were outplayed by Liverpool as Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino's goals in either half put the team managed by Jurgen Klopp on the brink of the last eight. Following the game, Van Gaal was asked about Fellaini, who was also booked during the game, but the Dutchman claimed not to have seen the incident.

"I don't if it like that, I haven't seen that," he told BT Sport. "I have to say Fellaini was one of the best players on the pitch and I am very sorry when he makes a mistake like that. But I haven't seen it." European football's governing body could act as quickly as Friday [11 March] and impose a sanction which is likely to curtail Fellaini's involvement in continental competition this term.

United already face having to overturn a two-goal deficit without captain Wayne Rooney and defender Luke Shaw, who are both long-term injury absentees. Former referee Howard Webb, who has officiated in a World Cup and Champions League final, believes it is inevitable that Fellaini will be punished.

"To top off a bad night for Manchester United they might face the second leg without Marouane Fellaini," he told BT Sport. "At the end of the game he had words with Emre Can and ended up throwing a left arm in the face. If the referee had seen that it would have been a red card for sure and Uefa might want to have a little look at that as well. If you at it, it is clearly an act of violent conduct and he is lucky none of the six officials saw it on the day. It sums up a bad night for Manchester United."