The Football Association have launched an investigation into the ugly tunnel row that marred the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday during which Manchester City coach Mikel Arteta suffered a cut head and milk and water was thrown towards Jose Mourinho.
A huge melee broke out after Manchester United reacted with displeasure to what they felt were excessive celebrations from City’s players and staff after their 2-1 win moved them 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
“The FA have sought observations from both clubs in relation to an incident which occurred following yesterday’s game,” the FA said.
United and City have been given until 6pm on Wednesday to respond to the FA, after which the governing body will decide whether the situation demands further investigation and potential sanctions for both clubs.
Although the fracas broke out in a narrow corridor outside City’s dressing room, which is opposite the referee’s room, it is understood that referee Michael Oliver did not witness the row and has made no reference to it in his report.
Greater Manchester Police are not currently investigating the matter, even though one of their officers stationed in the Old Trafford tunnel was forced to intervene to help stewards diffuse the skirmishes.
Tempers flared after Mourinho, the United manager, went to City’s dressing room to tell their victorious players to show some more respect and to keep their music down as the league leaders jubilantly celebrated their victory. One source said City were celebrating “as if they’d already won the league” and that they had never seen such a reaction to a victory.
It is understood that a one-pint milk carton, which had been left in the City dressing room for tea and coffee for their players and staff, was thrown at Mourinho. However, the milk is thought to have narrowly missed the United manager and instead splattered a member of his staff close by. Mourinho is also thought to have had water squirted in his direction although reports that he was hit on the head by a plastic water bottle remain unconfirmed.
Other players from both sides are then thought to have become involved, with eye-witnesses claiming United striker Romelu Lukaku was a prominent figure in the confrontations. Arteta, the former Everton and Arsenal midfielder who is now a member of City manager Pep Guardiola’s backroom staff, got caught in the crossfire and is believed to have sustained a cut above the eye-brow that left the Spaniard with blood streaming down his face. He was pictured covering his face on Monday morning when he arrived for training.
It is unclear whether the incident will have been caught on CCTV. United had denied City permission to allow a film crew from Amazon behind the scenes access at Old Trafford on Sunday as part of a season long documentary the e-commerce giant are producing. The Amazon cameras would likely have been filming when the row broke out.
The scenes evoked memories of the infamous “Battle of the Buffet” in 2004 when Arsenal were United’s opponents at Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager at the time, was pelted with pizza slices.
Mourinho had claimed after the game that City were “protected by luck” as he raged over the denial of what he felt was a second penalty in successive league matches against City at Old Trafford. The United manager felt Ander Herrera should have been awarded a penalty for a challenge by Nicolas Otamendi instead of being booked for diving. He had also argued Wayne Rooney should have been given a spot-kick when Claudio Bravo dived in last season. Guardiola ridiculed Mourinho’s remarks by insisting the best side won and that City were superior in every department.
The FA could also ask United to explain why a flare was thrown on to the pitch late in the second half on Sunday.