FA hit Wenger with £15,000 fine over Van Nistelrooy jibe

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger was fined £15,000 yesterday and "severely reprimanded" by the Football Association after being found guilty of a misconduct charge for calling Manchester United's Ruud Van Nistelrooy a "cheat".

Arsene Wenger was fined £15,000 yesterday and "severely reprimanded" by the Football Association after being found guilty of a misconduct charge for calling Manchester United's Ruud Van Nistelrooy a "cheat".

The Arsenal manager, who had denied the charge and whose case was argued in his absence by legal representatives, was also "warned to his future conduct" by the FA.

The charge arose from a televised comment made by Wenger on 24 October after Manchester United beat Arsenal 2-0 to end the Gunners' 49-match unbeaten Premiership run. During that game Van Nistelrooy made an ugly foul on Ashley Cole, an offence which initially went unpunished but later led to a three-match ban for the Dutch striker.

Immediately after the game, Wenger said of Van Nistelrooy: "We all know him, he can only cheat people." This comment led to the French manager being charged with improper conduct.

Wenger had seemed bemused at being charged, saying: "At some stage, you have to say what you think without insulting people. I've read my statements again and I stand by what I said. I just don't know really what I'm charged with."

Yesterday's ruling is sure to be greeted with satisfaction in Manchester, where it will be interpreted as adding to Wenger's recent woes. Arsenal's form has hit a relative slump since their defeat by United.

Yet in the grand scheme of things it will be of small consequence to Wenger. He has not been forced to apologise, nor asked to make any public statement of contrition. The fine is equivalent to a few days' wages, and Wenger said last night that he would not appeal against the decision. "Now is the time to move on," he said. "We have an important match coming up and all my thoughts are focused on our preparation for the visit to Portsmouth on Sunday."

The punishment will have no impact on Wenger's day-to-day work, "severe" reprimand or not. There was never any chance of a touchline ban because the misdemeanour did not relate to an incident during the game itself.

The last time Wenger faced an FA disciplinary hearing, in August 2000, he was charged with "alleged threatening behaviour and physical intimidation" towards a fourth official. A subsequent 12-match touchline ban was later overturned on appeal and Wenger was instead fined £10,000 for misconduct.

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