London: Manchester United centre-back Jonny Evans on Thursday rejected allegations that he spat at Newcastle United striker Papiss Cisse, who issued an apology over his role in the incident.
A picture taken on March 4, 2015 shows the referee (L) interfering as Manchester United's Northern Irish defender Jonny Evans (C) clashes with Newcastle United's Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse (R) during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle and Manchester United at St James Park, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, north east England. Pic/AFP
"Having woken up this morning I am shocked to have seen the media coverage from last night's match," Evans said in a statement on the United website. "I would like to make it clear that I did not spit at Papiss Cisse." Senegalese striker Cisse apologised to his team-mates and Newcastle supporters, to Evans and to "every football fan" who saw the incident, saying he had "let down" his club's young fans.
The incident occurred during the first half of United's Premier League victory at St James' Park on Wednesday and followed a tangle between the players near the halfway line. As the pair climbed to their feet, Evans seemed to spit towards the ground and Cisse appeared to react by spitting at the United defender's neck.
Referee Anthony Taylor spoke to both players afterwards, but did not book either of them. The Football Association has said it will wait for Taylor's report before deciding whether to take action.
The two players could each face six-game bans if found guilty of spitting under new disciplinary guidelines brought in by the FA this season. Evans added: "I was totally unaware of any spitting incident and had assumed that the issue at the time was with the challenge and his attempted retaliation to the tackle from the floor.
"During the game Papiss Cisse and I spoke about the incident and it is clear by my reaction in the television footage that I was totally surprised by any suggestion of spitting. "It is not in my character or in my nature to spit at anybody, nor is it something I have ever done or would ever do. It is certainly not something that I did last night."
'I let you down'
In a statement published on the Newcastle website, Cisse said: "I have apologies to make to a lot of people today. Firstly to my team-mates and to our supporters, secondly to Jonny Evans, and thirdly to every football fan who saw the incident between myself and Jonny. "I reacted to something I found very unpleasant. Sometimes it is hard not to react, particularly in the heat of the moment.
I have always tried hard to be positive a role model, especially for our young fans, and yesterday I let you down. "I hope children out there playing football for their clubs and schools this weekend will know better than to retaliate when they are angry. Perhaps when they see the problem it now causes me and my team they will be able to learn from my mistake, not copy it."
United manager Louis van Gaal attempted to draw a line beneath the matter by backing Evans's claim that he had not spat at Cisse. "He wasn't aware that he was spitting and when he was spitting on the ground, maybe that is a natural thing from a human being," the Dutchman told a press conference.
"It was not his intention and that I said already. I cannot imagine that Jonny Evans could do that and he has said that also. I believe him, so for me the matter has been done." Newcastle manager John Carver was reluctant to discuss what had happened after the game, which saw United prevail 1-0 courtesy of an 89th-minute Ashley Young strike. "I can't comment on it," Carver said. "I just know there was a fracas on the halfway line."