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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

UEFA: Drogba has undermined respect campaign

UEFA general secretary David Taylor believes Didier Drogba's midweek outburst was a blow to the 'Respect' campaign - and has admitted Chelsea may have to wait several weeks before discovering his fate.

• Leniency over Fletcher?

European football's governing body are collecting evidence before deciding whether to charge Drogba - and possibly his team-mate Michael Ballack and the Blues themselves - for the ugly scenes that marred Wednesday's Champions League exit at the hands of Barcelona.

''It was not pleasant to see, not the sort of example one wants,'' said Taylor, whose employers, like the Football Association, have striven to improve conduct towards officials.

''UEFA has a respect campaign and this just flies in the face of these worthy endeavours.''

Drogba harangued Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo after the final whistle for failing to award a penalty to Chelsea despite several strong appeals, and then swore audibly at a television camera before leaving the pitch.

Midfielder Ballack also drew criticism for chasing and shouting at Ovrebo in the dying moments of the game, while the Blues could face action for failing to control their players.

Taylor admits UEFA ''expect to take action'' of some kind, although he was ''pleased'' with the apology issued by Drogba, through the club's website, for his behaviour.

He would not, however, be drawn on the possible outcome of UEFA's ongoing investigation.

''The proceedings are instigated by UEFA but the decision is made by the control and disciplinary body, which is quasi-independent,'' he told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.

''They look at all the evidence, including video evidence, the objective and subjective factors, the mitigating circumstances - if any - before they come to some judgment.

''You can speculate, will somebody get this sentence or that sentence? It's pure speculation.''

Taylor added: ''At the moment I'm not going to confirm whether it's Drogba, Ballack, Chelsea, all three or others - these are the things we're looking at this weekend.

''It could be a number of weeks yet before such a decision will be made.''

UEFA will also consider the fate of Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher at a disciplinary meeting tomorrow after his semi-final sending off against Arsenal.

Replays appeared to show his dismissal, which has ruled him out of the final against Barcelona, was harsh, and United have asked UEFA to consider quashing his ban.

But Taylor believes it might set a dangerous precedent if they pander to the English and European champions.

''UEFA gets accused of a conspiracy in terms of trying to engineer a final which doesn't have two English teams in it,'' he said.

''The more you use discretion the more you leave yourself open to ridiculous accusations like that.''

He added: ''The matter is being considered by the disciplinary body tomorrow. But as a rule, a player who is sent off will automatically miss the next competition match.

''We try to be as open and responsive as possible but we have a duty to all the other clubs, as well as football itself, to apply the competition rules.''

  • Leniency over Fletcher?

    Players' chief Gordon Taylor has called on UEFA to rescind the Champions League final bans for both Manchester United's Darren Fletcher and Barcelona defender Eric Abidal.

    UEFA will meet to decide on United's appeal against Fletcher's red card, imposed for a foul on Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas, but are expected to uphold the referee's decision.

    Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, told PA Sport: ''Both Fletcher and Abidal have a case that they were unfortunate to be sent off, and I believe it would be only fair for UEFA to rescind the bans in both cases.

    ''If bans were rescinded for both players it would also balance things out too because it would benefit both of the clubs in the final.''

    Taylor, who is also honorary president of the international players' union FIFPro, said he had no doubt that both red cards would have been overturned had they come under Football Association jurisdiction.

    He added: ''If it was in England I believe it's highly likely the red cards would have been rescinded after looking at the television evidence.

    ''UEFA should be mindful of the terrible consequences of the sendings off, particularly when they didn't look justified and the effect that will have on the players.''

    UEFA's disciplinary body will meet tomorrow to deal with the appeal against Fletcher's dismissal but United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is not holding out much hope.

    Ferguson said: ''I am not optimistic at all. We have to do it for Darren and sometimes in these situations, you never know. But I don't think it will be overturned. The referee made an honest decision.''

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