The title race is not yet over and the Champions League final is 13 days away, but today the battle over what happened between Manchester United's players and Chelsea's groundstaff on 26 April at Stamford Bridge commences. Chelsea will file their report which, sources at the club say, includes more incidents involving United players than those which have already been reported.
The deadline for submissions to the Football Association is today in what is likely to prove a bitter legal battle between the two clubs. Chelsea have hired their usual barrister Jim Sturman QC, who represented the club in the Ashley Cole tapping-up inquiry. They also have the CCTV footage of the fight between Patrice Evra and Sam Bethell, the Chelsea groundsman, which led to a melee.
That incident and a separate one in which Rio Ferdinand kicked a female steward in the stadium tunnel – which the player has since apologised for and claimed was accidental – are also part of the Chelsea submission. However, it is understood that Chelsea may have more complaints to make. United are expected to claim that Gary Neville and the coach Mike Phelan heard a member of the Chelsea staff refer to Evra as a "fucking immigrant". Chelsea will deny this, possibly claiming that the word was "idiot".
The case is likely to centre upon what it was that provoked Evra because it now seems that both sides accept that – whatever set off the left-back – he did not hear it first hand. Either way it will be a minefield for the FA disciplinary department who will be expected to make a decision on one club's word against another and from studying grainy camera footage and pictures which are likely to be inconclusive to say the least.
With the alleged racist element to the case, there is a great deal of sensitivity around it and the FA are duty-bound to investigate it as far as they can. The case is also likely to hang heavy over both clubs, the hierarchies of which will be thrown together at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on 21 May.
Given that David Gill, the chief executive of Manchester United, once served a legal letter on his opposite number Peter Kenyon over the John Obi Mikel transfer, it is not exactly as if they are the best of friends.Reuse content