Football: United fans defend pitch invasion

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MANCHESTER UNITED fans have hit back at claims that they are the worst behaved supporters in the country.

Aston Villa's head of security, John Hood, made the accusations after some United supporters invaded the pitch at the end of Wednesday's FA Cup semi-final replay victory over Arsenal. Hood also claimed fans caused a security risk by refusing to sit down during the game.

The Football Association is investigating the behaviour of the United fans, but Andy, chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association said Hood has overreacted.

"Mr Hood is well over the top in his comments," Walsh said. "Emotionally it was a very highly-charged game and, whilst recognising that Mr Hood has his job to do, he's also got to understand that after one of the greatest FA Cup semi-final games ever, emotions run high. There was not the same outcry when Everton fans invaded the pitch at the end of last season and we feel confident that the FA will see sense and reason," Walsh said.

Relatives of the Hillsborough disaster victims fear the incident could lead to the return of fences. Phil Hammond, secretary of the families support group, said: "We can't have people running on to the pitch because someone like Uefa might tell clubs they must put the fences back up. That is the last thing we want - to go back to those days after all the progress that's been made."

Dennis Wise said yesterday that he did not bite the Real Mallorca defender, Marcelino.

The Chelsea captain, who was informed by Uefa, European football's ruling body, that a disciplinary hearing will be held on Monday, was seen on television apparently trying to bite the arm of the centre-back during the Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final first-leg game. Although Marcelino and Real Mallorca made no complaint and the match officials and observers missed the incident, Uefa felt it was serious enough to warrant a disciplinary hearing.

If found guilty, Wise faces a ban from the return leg on Thursday as well as the final, if Chelsea get there.

But Wise, who has been sent off three times this season, said: "I didn't bite him. There was no complaint from the player, Real Mallorca, the Uefa delegate or the referee. The TV showed me gesturing to bite him and obviously everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. He was asked after the game and said no. But it's still being carried on and I've been charged by Uefa."

Wise's manager, Gianluca Vialli, was reported yesterday to be pursuing the Roma player, Marco Delvecchio. Vialli wants the pounds 6m-rated striker as Pierluigi Casiraghi will miss the first three months of next season.

Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler has decided not to appeal against the six-match ban imposed following his spat with Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux and his coke-sniffing goal celebration.

Manchester United's David Beckham, Roy Keane and Dwight Yorke are among the nominations for the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award. The list is completed by Arsenal's Dennis Bergkamp and Emmanuel Petit and Tottenham's David Ginola.

Leeds have three players - Lee Bowyer, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith - among the six nominations for Young Player of the Year. The other nominations are Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka, Liverpool's Michael Owen and Lee Hendrie of Aston Villa.

Dalian Atkinson, the former Aston Villa forward, scored for the Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad as they reached tomorrow's final of the Asian Cup-Winners' Cup in Tokyo with a 3-1 win over Iraq's Al-Talaba.