Evra handed four-match ban

Manchester United's Patrice Evra was banned for four matches and fined £15,000 for his part in an post-match brawl at Chelsea last season.

The Frenchman was ruled by the Football Association (FA) to have attacked Chelsea groundsman Sam Bethell at Stamford Bridge after April's game.

Chelsea were also fined £25,000 pounds because of Bethell's own conduct during the altercation, following the Londoners' controversial 2-1 win. However, an allegation that Bethell had 'engaged in racist conduct or language' was not proved and Chelsea were cleared of that charge.

United condemned the ban as "excessive" and hinted they may appeal.

A statement on the club's official website, www.manutd.com, read: "Manchester United note the announcement from the FA and are disappointed with the decision and in particular consider the sanctions against Patrice Evra excessive.

"Manchester United and Patrice will consider all options once there has been an opportunity to digest the full reasons for the decision. There will be no further comment."

Chelsea had denied that Bethell was guilty of any racial abuse and were delighted that their stance was vindicated by the FA.

A statement from the Stamford Bridge club read: "Chelsea would like to thank the Football Association for their decision that there was no racist element involved in the incident between Patrice Evra and Sam Bethell, a member of the Chelsea groundstaff.

"Chelsea always strenuously denied the racist allegation and that position has been totally vindicated by the FA. Alleging racism is one of the most serious accusations that can be made in football. Chelsea has a zero tolerance attitude towards racism and is fighting hard with the rest of football to rid all forms of discrimination from the game.

"Clearly the incident was a regrettable one. We will be analysing the detail of the verdict before commenting further."

By Evra's own admission, he struck Bethell on the head and the fact he went back and continued the row after it had been broken up went against the France full-back as well.

The four-game ban means Evra will miss the Premier League fixtures at Stoke on 26 December and Middlesbrough on 29 December , the FA Cup third-round tie at Southampton on 4 January, plus the first leg of United's League Cup semi-final.