Television cameras showed United's captain, Roy Keane, shouting and pointing at his Arsenal counterpart, Patrick Vieira. Keane later said he had acted because Vieira had been "having at go" at Gary Neville before the game. Without providing details, Neville backed up Keane's version by saying: "Roy Keane's not a liar."
Keane started shouting at Vieira after the Frenchman had had words with Neville. "See you out there, not down here," Keane said, apparently warning Vieira to keep hostilities to the pitch. Graham Poll, the referee, then prevented Keane from approaching Vieira, while Pascal Cygan blocked Vieira's path to Keane. The pre-match griping ended there, and the FA said yesterday there was no reason for it to act.
"We have received a report from Graham Poll in relation to an incident in the tunnel prior to the match," an FA statement said. "He has confirmed that he is satisfied that he dealt with the incident at the time. Therefore no further action is required."
Keane had explained:
"Patrick Vieira is 6ft 4in and having a go at Gary Neville. So I said, `Have a go at me'. If he wants to intimidate our players and thinks Gary Neville is an easy target, I'm not having it."
Neville declined to elaborate on what Vieira had said, but added: "There were a couple of things that did happen before the game that disappoint you, especially from players of that calibre. But it's a tough game. We've been around a long time and nothing should surprise us and it didn't surprise us."
Vieira denied trying to intimidate Neville, saying: "I didn't threaten anybody. They are big enough players to handle themselves. I had a talk with Roy Keane and that's it. Gary Neville is a big lad, he can handle himself."
Neville conceded that the match itself was ill-tempered and that responsibility lay with both sides. Poll issued six yellow cards - four of them to United - and also dismissed United's Mikael Silvestre for head-butting Freddie Ljungberg 21 minutes from the end.
"There were a couple of our players who might be disappointed with themselves and I am sure there will be a couple of their players who will be disappointed with themselves," Neville said. "It seemed in the first half that everybody was trying to get the better of everybody else and it wasn't played in a fair manner."
Ljungberg, who was left bleeding by Silvestre's butt, said: "This kind of thing does not belong on a football pitch. He butted me on my nose, and it bled. I got really angry but tried to keep calm. We were told before the game that we had to keep calm."
Silvestre was also rebuked by his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who said: "There is no doubt he deserved to be sent off."
Thierry Henry pinpointed the two main factors behind Arsenal's third failed title defence in seven years - a lack of strength in depth and weaknesses in defence.
"It was pretty much a reflection of how we've been playing all season," he said. "Conceding four goals at home, you can't expect to win the game." Henry added: "I'm not talking badly about anyone but look at our bench and then look at the bench of United or Chelsea. You need your bench to go through the season. We have great youngsters in the squad but there is only so much you can ask of them.
"Sometimes it's a bit difficult to play well in all competitions. A lot of times, your bench wins you competitions. For me, that was the key - injuries and our bench not being the same as other teams."
The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger added: "The way we gave goals away was quite worrying. Overall, we have conceded too many goals to play for the championship."
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