Tuesday 16 January 2018

Reds to pay for Wembley damage

The English FA is considering billing Manchester United for damage to their Wembley dressing-room inflicted in the aftermath of their tempestuous FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City, writes Rory Smith.

The FA was forced to carry out emergency repairs to one wall of a side room in the away dressing-room -- used by Alex Ferguson's side -- before Sunday's second semi-final.

However, it is believed some evidence of the damage was still visible when Stoke occupied the changing area the next day.

Though the FA yesterday had no comment to make, it is thought to be weighing up the possibility of asking United to pay for the work required.

United sources were keen to stress that they had made FA officials aware of the incident, and said that only minimal damage had been caused. They also maintained that no players had been involved.

They added that the club would volunteer to pick up the cost of repair work despite a string of clashes with the FA in the past month.

United were deprived of Wayne Rooney for the semi-final after the England international received an unprecedented two-match ban for swearing at a television camera during the club's 4-2 win at West Ham.

Ferguson himself remained absent from the technical area as he served his own five-match ban for comments made about referee Martin Atkinson during March's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

He is likely to have witnessed scenes of considerable fury on his return to the dressing-room. Rio Ferdinand had to be restrained from confronting Mario Balotelli at the final whistle, enraged by the Italian's apparent goading of United's fans.

Anderson, too, clashed with Balotelli, with the City player believed to have made an incendiary comment about the Brazilian's girlfriend in the melee.

The FA is continuing to study footage of the ugly scenes. As of last night, it had seen nothing that would warrant disciplinary action but it still had additional footage to view.

Paul Scholes, meanwhile, was sent off for a thigh-high lunge at Pablo Zabaleta in what could well be his last ever Manchester derby.

The midfielder will certainly miss tonight's trip to Newcastle -- though Rooney should be restored to the side after serving his ban -- and comments made by Ferguson suggest the 69-year-old may not enjoy waving off one of his most loyal servants into the sunset this summer, but that he will do so if necessary.

Indeed, Scholes may not be the only player allowed to leave Old Trafford this summer, even if United make up for the disappointment of losing to City by winning the league and the Champions League.

Edwin van der Sar has already announced his intention to retire, while Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves are out of contract and seem unlikely to be retained.

Irish Independent

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