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Football: FA charges Neville as United tear up pitch

Independent, The (London),  Jan 30, 2001  by Alan Nixon

AFTER THE 1-0 defeat by West Ham United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday, the Manchester United defender Gary Neville found himself on a misconduct charge for using "foul and abusive language towards a match official" after the game. It was also announced that the much- criticised Old Trafford pitch will be dug up after this weekend.

Having received the report of the referee, Paul Durkin, the Football Association has brought a charge which could lead to a three- match ban for the England full-back. Durkin noted an incident immediately after the final whistle, when Neville apparently berated an assistant referee over the amount of injury time in the match. Durkin added on four minutes, but Neville thought there should have been much more because West Ham's goal-kicks were taken by the defender Stuart Pearce because the Hammers goalkeeper, Shaka Hislop, was playing with a knee injury.

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United are to dig up their pitch - at the cost of around pounds 200,000 - after withering criticism from their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, at Sunday's defeat. The Old Trafford surface will go after the Everton game on Saturday, and a new one will be in place in time for the Valencia game in the Champions' League later in February.

Sir Alex was furious with the club for allowing rugby league's Grand Final to be played at Old Trafford. United have been cursed with pitch problems since building up the stands at Old Trafford, although the latest version was working well until recently.


The grass is provided by the same Yorkshire company that exports its product to Australia where it is used at leading cricket grounds. The cost will run close to pounds 200,000, but that is a small price to pay to give David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and the strikers a true surface to play on.

Yesterday, the club captain Roy Keane refused to blame the poor state of the pitch for United's defeat. "The players have got to be careful if they criticise the pitch because people will look at it as an excuse," he said. "The pitch has been disappointing, but it's the same for the opposition."

The full-back Denis Irwin agreed with Keane and he felt United only had themselves to blame for their sloppy finishing. "You have to think about your first touch on the pitch now and it's very, very bobbly," he said. "It's very dry and I think if you look at the game there were a couple times when the bobbles did not go our way. But it's the same for them and I don't want to make excuses because we are very much a one-touch team who likes to pass and move."

United are set to offer Teddy Sheringham a new one-year deal believed to be worth pounds 35,000-a-week. Sheringham's present 12- month agreement expires this summer and Ferguson wants him to stay at Old Trafford.

Ferguson feels that the striker, who turns 35 in April, fully deserves a new contract and he believes he could get another one in 12 months' time. The England international is the club's top scorer with 18 goals.

"Teddy will be offered another year with us, but he's a player who is capable of playing longer than that," Ferguson said. "But that's the best way to look at it, season by season."

Copyright 2001 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.