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Last Updated: Monday, 25 October, 2004, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
FA acts after Old Trafford battle

Ruud van Nistelrooy has until Tuesday to respond to his FA charge
Manchester United's Ruud Van Nistelrooy has been charged with serious foul play by the Football Association for a tackle on Arsenal's Ashley Cole.

And Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has been asked to explain his comments about Van Nistelrooy and referee Mike Riley.

Van Nistelrooy has been given until Tuesday to "deny or admit" the charge which will be heard on Thursday.

The FA is also investigating an alleged incident in the tunnel following United's fiery 2-0 win at Old Trafford.

According to reports, an Arsenal player is believed to have thrown food at United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in the aftermath of Sunday's game.

With the baggage that goes with this game it is almost becoming an impossible match to referee
Former referee Jeff Winter

United have refused to say anything about the allegations with chief executive David Gill telling BBC Radio Five Live: "I have no comment to make."

But the Daily Telegraph says tomato soup was thrown at Ferguson while the Daily Mirror reported that it was food and pea soup hurled by an unnamed Arsenal player.

Arsenal left the field incensed by the refereeing decision which gave United the lead from the penalty spot after Sol Campbell was adjudged to have brought down Wayne Rooney.

Campbell refused to shake Rooney's hand at the final whistle before the players headed into the tunnel where tempers appear to have boiled over.

Arsene Wenger (right) has been asked to explain his comments about referee Mike Riley

The 73rd-minute penalty was converted by Van Nistelrooy, who came in for criticism from Wenger for his ugly-looking tackle on left-back Cole.

Former referee Jeff Winter was scathing of the events that have taken place in the wake of the match and believes the match officials have become the unfair victims of the game between these two rivals.

"It's more about winning than fair play now and if you get the decision then it's all part and parcel of the game, but if you don't, the attitude is 'let's complain' and usually the referee is the easy target," he said.

"But that game, with the baggage that goes with it, is almost becoming an impossible match to referee, and I speak from personal experience."

Premier League referees chief Keith Hackett felt Riley retained control and praised the man in the middle for trying to let the game flowing.

Hackett said: "We know this is one of the tough encounters of the season. Mike clearly had a gameplan to try and not supress the match.

"He wanted it to breathe and perhaps went in with the intention of getting through the game without having to dismiss any players.

"In the back of his mind was trying to get through a game without having a blow up and I think Mike did extremely well to keep a lid on things."

The corresponding fixture between the two teams last season ended in controversy when players rounded on Van Nistelrooy after he missed a last-minute penalty in the goalless draw.

Arsenal had four players banned and were handed fines totalling 275,000 by the FA.

Wenger's comments about Riley, who has awarded eight penalties in his last eight matches at Old Trafford, will now see him hauled before the FA.




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