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UEFA warns fans to curb drinking when United return to Italy

UEFA has asked Manchester United to warn travelling supporters to cut down on their drinking ahead of the Champions League semi-final trip to face AC Milan next month.

Just a week after United fans were attacked inside and outside the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, they discovered they will face another visit to Italy on 2 May as Sir Alex Ferguson's side look to ensure an all-English final in Athens.

A UEFA investigation is currently ongoing into the events surrounding the first leg of the Old Trafford club's quarter-final tie with AS Roma. But, while many observers felt it was the visiting fans who were wronged - both at that game and in the previous round against Lille when trouble also flared - UEFA spokesman William Gaillard does not believe United can completely absolve themselves of all responsibility.

And, while he does not expect trouble at the San Siro, where United were beaten by Milan as recently as 2005, he does believe it is time to reinforce requested standards of behaviour.

"There are no special concerns about the game in Milan," he said. "It is a different city, a different stadium and a different team. There was trouble in Seville last week [when Tottenham played Sevilla in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals first leg] but none on Tuesday when Chelsea played Valencia.

"If everyone behaves in a proper way, we should have a smooth sailing but Manchester United has to brief its fans and tell them what is appropriate.

"There has been a problem with drink and it would be nice if the supporters were advised not to do it. I realise this is a difficult thing but people are putting themselves at risk because they stop behaving in a rational way. UEFA are still investigating what happened in Rome, so we have to be careful, but there is shared responsibility for most situations, even if there is not equal responsibility."

UEFA and the Greek FA, meanwhile, have played down concerns that the final in Athens could witness a repeat of the violence which has marred recent European matches involving English clubs.

The Premiership is guaranteed to have at least one representative at the Olympic Stadium on 23 May, as Liverpool and Chelsea have been drawn together in the other semi-final.

But Gaillard insists European football's governing body is relaxed about the prospect of two English teams meeting in the Greek capital. It would be the third time two teams from the same country had contested a Champions League final.

Gaillard said: "We have already had two Spanish teams in the final [Valencia and Real Madrid in 2000], and two Italian teams [Juventus and AC Milan in 2003], so two English teams is bound to happen eventually.

"Who knows who is going to get through? We are quite relaxed about it. Greece is a beautiful country and we hope everybody who goes to Athens for the final has a memorable time."

Michalis Tsapieis, a spokesman for the Hellenic Football Federation, said: "We are not afraid of a final between two English teams because we don't have to worry. We'll be consulting the English authorities as well as UEFA and the Greek police if that were to happen. We are sure that everything will be fine and that it will be a great final.

"I don't think that we would need any special security measures because the Champions League final is more than a match - it's a celebration of football. It's a game, not a war."

Sports-related violence is a particularly thorny issue for the Greek authorities at present. The country is still entrenched in a self-imposed ban on team sports, which was put in place last month following clashes between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos supporters outside a volleyball match which resulted in the death of a 25-year-old man.

Tsapieis added: "This is a much bigger subject, but it has nothing to do with the Champions League final. I don't think that this scenario would happen. I agree that there has been lots of violence but, as I said before, the Champions League is something special. Security is not something we should be worried about."

 
 
 

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