The animosity between Manchester's two footballing rivals deepened yesterday as Mario Balotelli was accused of "disrespect" by Luis Nani after the City player's provocative celebrations in front of United fans at the end of the FA Cup semi-final prompted a mêlée on the pitch at Wembley on Saturday.
The Football Association will await the report of the referee Mike Dean today before deciding whether any of the players involved should face improper conduct charges. The FA believes Dean was well-placed to see Balotelli's actions, which escalated into a scrum in which the United defender Rio Ferdinand screamed at City's coach David Platt before the players left the pitch.
The row did not continue in the tunnel and the FA may draw a line under the issue, though it will investigate if the Wirral official reports the spat as an "extraordinary incident".
Nani, though, was infuriated. "He was showing his badge to our fans," he said of Balotelli. "Anderson just took him out from in front of our fans. Rio [Ferdinand] was very angry because it is not fair, it was very disrespectful to do that in front of the fans. We were not happy with that."
Although Balotelli was a full 50 yards from the United fans when he celebrated, United's players are likely to feel a sense of injustice if he escapes punishment, after recent bans imposed on Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson.
City are keen to put the incident – and Saturday's victory – in the past, with an acute sense among manager Roberto Mancini's coaching staff yesterday that the victory over United will count for nothing if the side fail to hit their top-four target.
"We have to take a Champions League place because, otherwise, winning in the FA Cup final would be all for nothing," the midfielder Nigel de Jong said. "You can't just have just one. We have to go for both. We can enjoy this now, but we have to focus on the top four too."
United's rancour lingered, though. Ferdinand yesterday tweeted: "If u score a goal + give a bit to opposing fans I kind of accept that but at the final whistle go to your own fans + enjoy it not opposing fans."
Ferdinand waded into the scrum when Platt had intervened after Anderson shoved Balotelli. Platt was jostled by the Brazilian and Balotelli gave Ferdinand an earful of abuse, but it is understood that the Italian's winking at Ferdinand, amid the mêlée, most angered the central defender. When Ferdinand then saw Platt in his line of vision, he ordered him to control his players and there was some angry finger-jabbing.
Ferdinand spotted Platt near the United team bus as he was leaving the stadium, took him to one side and apologised for his outburst but repeated his claim that Balotelli was out of control. The two men parted amicably after a four-minute conversation but the incident only adds to the antipathy United will feel toward neighbours who believe they have crossed a symbolic threshold.
City's Emmanuel Adebayor and United's Gary Neville have both incurred fines for provocative celebrations in the past five years, admittedly when closer to opposition fans.
Paul Scholes' dismissal, for a challenge on Pablo Zabaleta, remains another source of ill feeling. Zabaleta was still angered by the challenge after the game. "It was a really bad tackle. Very high," he said. "It was just over the knee. If it was any lower my knee would probably be gone."
There was a total of 34 arrests inside and outside Wembley on Saturday, a number the Metropolitan Police said was satisfactory.Reuse content