Manchester United captain Gary Neville could be subject to a Football Association investigation after appearing to direct an abusive signal to two-goal forward Carlos Tévez during Manchester City’s Carling Cup semi-final first-leg victory on Tuesday night.
Tévez, who completed a £25.5m (€29m) move to City last summer after rejecting a permanent contract at Man United, secured a narrow 2-1 advantage for Roberto Mancini’s team ahead of next Wednesday’s second-leg.
The Argentine celebrated his opening goal, a penalty, by directing a 'quit-talking’ hand gesture to United substitute Neville, who was pictured responding by raising his middle finger at his former team-mate.
Neville, who had backed Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to offload Tévez prior to this game, was warned as to his future conduct by the FA after his inflammatory goal celebration in front of the City fans following Michael Owen’s winner in the 4-3 victory at Old Trafford in September, so he now faces the prospect of another disciplinary probe.
Despite seeing Tévez inspire Man City’s fightback, Ferguson was sanguine about the player’s contribution against former employers.
Ferguson said: “That’s just the way it happens. It can be like that. It can bite you. We’ve had a few players leave the club and score against us. It’s not an issue. I’m happy with the players we have.”
City manager Mancini played down suggestions that Neville’s pre-match observations had provided Tévez with added motivation.
Mancini said: “I don’t know if what was said made a difference for Carlos. I just hope that he plays as well in the second game because it will be very difficult at Old Trafford.
“Carlos played a big game very well. But what is important is that we have won. I don’t know whether United made a mistake letting him go. I am just happy he plays for us.”
City could also face an investigation with United’s Patrice Evra appearing to be hit by a lighter thrown from the crowd.
Turnstile problems at the away end, which led to the delayed entry of some United fans, could also be reviewed.
Despite falling to defeat after Ryan Giggs’s 17th-minute opener, Ferguson expects his team to emerge victorious at Old Trafford.
He said: “We dominated the match. We lost our composure for 15 minutes but, after that, we were OK. But it will be a United crowd at Old Trafford and, with the occasion and what is at stake, we will be OK.”
Meanwhile, former United winger Lee Sharpe has labelled the club’s financial turmoil under the Glazer family as “disgraceful”.
United are £699m (€801m) in debt and are planning a bond issue to raise £500m (€573m) to help alleviate their worrying financial situation.
Sharpe said: “It’s disgraceful and a huge shame what is going on with the debt. The hard work carried out by Sir Alex and everyone at the club over the last 20 years is at threat.
“The Glazers have undermined all this hard work. It’s wrong that the club has been put in to so much debt and you hear stories of them taking money out of the club.
"When United can’t afford to buy players, you know something is seriously wrong. It seems everything is being taken from underneath them.”