Wayne Rooney and Phil Neville have faced a storm of racism after an ugly clash between two of their players in Major League Soccer overnight.
Play was halted for several minutes during Sunday’s meeting between Rooney’s DC United and Neville’s Inter Miami at Audi Field in Washington.
United striker Taxi Fountas has been accused of racially abusing Inter defender Damion Lowe during an altercation between the pair in the second half.
DC manager Rooney and his counterpart Neville, former Manchester United and England teammates, have both been called in to speak to referee Ismail Elfath after tensions boiled over on the pitch.
Neville discussed whether his players should leave the pitch during the four-minute stoppage, but play eventually continued with Rooney replacing Fountas almost immediately.
“There was a racist comment that was unacceptable,” Neville said in his post-match press conference. “A word was used which, in my opinion, is unacceptable in society. I think that’s the worst word in the world.
“There is no place for racism at all on a football pitch or in society.
“I have to commend my players for keeping calm, I have to commend the referee – (in) a really difficult situation, he followed the protocols set out by MLS – and I have to give massive, massive respect to Wayne Rooney for treated him the way he did.
“I’ve always known him as a class act and today he rose in my estimation more than he ever did, more than any goal he’s ever scored.”
The alleged incident happened in the 59th minute as Greece international Fountas, who had scored moments earlier, got involved in a fight with Lowe and the situation escalated.
The matter is being investigated by MLS.
A spokesperson told ESPN: “MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language and we take these allegations very seriously. An investigation into this case will begin shortly.
A statement from DC United added: “DC United is aware of the allegations involving a player during the game against Inter Miami CF. The club will work closely with Major League Soccer and Inter Miami to investigate the matter. incident.
Referee Elfath reportedly said neither he nor any of the officials on the pitch heard any racial slurs, while the incident was also verified by VAR.
Miami won the game 3-2 with a late goal from Gonzalo Higuain.