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FOOTBALL: MOST EXPENSIVE PASTA DISH IN WORLD; Fergie to fork out pounds 2,500 fine for 'racist' jibes at Italians.

ALEX FERGUSON has been warned that he faces the full wrath of UEFA if he utters one word out of line about Juventus.

The Manchester United manager was yesterday hit with a fine and a stinging rebuke for what were described as "racist" comments against Italians.

Ferguson was handed a fine of 5,000 Swiss Francs, which is pounds 2,155, after he made comments about Inter Milan before both legs of the Champions League clash with the Italians.

A UEFA spokesman branded Ferguson a racist after the United manager said: "When an Italian says it's pasta, I check under the sauce."

And the United manager compounded the insult before the second leg, when he said the Italians' tactics would include "scheming, diving, referee-baiting - the full repertoire."

That incensed UEFA, and has led to a strongly-worded warning that the Scottish manager must not revert to such language when his side meets Italian opposition in the semi-finals.

United take on Juventus in what is bound to be a fraught tie, with both sides reverting to the sort of mind games that Ferguson is famous for. But a UEFA spokesman warned the Old Trafford boss last night that they will be monitoring his behaviour closely from now on.

"This was unnecessary provocation of the opposing team, and we cannot accept racism of any kind," said a spokesman.

"We will be watching closely. If Mr Ferguson makes any of the comments again prior to the game against Juventus, then we would be forced to open up another disciplinary action against him.

"We feel Mr Ferguson, who is an experienced manager with a considerable list of honours, should know perfectly well how to handle the media.

"Therefore, he should have been aware of the potentially negative impact of his declarations, which UEFA saw as unnecessary provocation and inappropriate prior to an important match." Ferguson will now have to watch his words carefully in the build-up to the semi-final clash with arch rivals Juventus - particularly because he has already incensed the Italian nation.

Inter's coach Mircea Lucescu, who resigned after his team were dumped out of the competition by United, claimed the comments would lead to violence. Lucescu insisted that what Ferguson said was "a sad thing and a bad thing," and he claimed that the Inter fans would target the United manager.

United were given a rowdy reception in Italy, and Ferguson was singled out for attention by the fans.

That could happen again in Turin, but last night a United spokesman insisted that the club accepts the punishment, and the matter is behind them. "These things happen in the heat of preparation for big matches. UEFA have their procedures and we accept it. We are now looking forward to the game against Juventus," the spokesman said.

Ferguson's comments were inspired initially before the first leg of the quarter final tie, when he suspected the Italians of playing psychological games over the fitness of Ronaldo.

United were fined 30,000 Swiss francs (pounds 13,000) because their travelling supporters set off of fireworks during the second leg in the San Siro stadium. Inter were also fined for their fans' misbehaviour, and for improper conduct by their players.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:MADDOCK, David
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 26, 1999
Words:533
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