The ugly postmatch scenes alluded to in a post concerning Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday received further scrutiny yesterday, as the visitors insisted they were provoked, writes the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor :
Manchester United’s lawyers will tomorrow ask the club’s players for their accounts of the violent clashes with Chelsea employees at the end of Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge. In particular they will focus on suggestions that Patrice Evra suffered racial abuse, with sources inside the dressing room reporting that Evra had been called a “fucking immigrant”.
senior sources at Old Trafford confirmed yesterday that one of Evra’s associates had informed them the French defender was subjected to what Carlos Tevez described as a “grave insult”. United players who were closest to the scene believe they heard Evra being sworn at and racially abused. It is understood that Chelsea will vehemently deny this and that any allegation of racist comments or any language that could be construed as racist will be strongly disputed.
The Football Association has launched an investigation into the trouble, which occurred when Sir Alex Ferguson’s unused players were taking part in the routine post-match warm-down and objected to groundstaff and other officials asking them to leave the pitch.
The trouble flared after Chelsea’s groundstaff asked the players to move because they wanted to cut the grass. It is in the Premier League’s rules that the players are allowed on the pitch after the match, and the players carried on with their exercises. A United player is believed to have sworn in response and the situation went downhill from there, with other insults swapped. In the next few minutes there were then two separate clashes, involving up to 30 people, with Evra predominantly involved. Photographs show a groundsman, Sam Bethell, with his fist raised and apparently about to punch him as others try to calm the situation.
Chelsea claim the trouble was begun by United’s players but on another day of claim and counter-claim Ferguson expressed his concern that the Stamford Bridge employees had started the incident out of nothing. “There’s one question I want to put,” he said. “Why were the lawnmowers going after the game to cut the grass? Were they not supposed to do it before the game?”