Mark Hughes has insisted he has no intention of demanding restraint from Manchester City's volatile players after Craig Bellamy, along with Gary Neville and Manchester United, escaped with a warning from the Football Association for his contribution to Sunday's explosive derby at Old Trafford.
Bellamy had been under threat of a three-match ban for striking a pitch invader towards the end of United's controversial 4-3 victory, and Neville also risked an improper conduct charge for goading City supporters following Michael Owen's 96th-minute winner. Both, however, received warnings as to their future conduct instead.
"In relation to Craig Bellamy the match referee has confirmed that he would not have sent the player off had he seen the incident with the fan at the time," confirmed the FA. "Craig Bellamy will be contacted by the FA and warned as to his future conduct. Gary Neville has been reminded of his responsibilities following his actions after Manchester United's final goal deep into injury time."
Neville's slap on the wrist comes despite the United club captain receiving a £5,000 fine and an identical warning for taunting Liverpool fans in 2006. United also escaped a charge of failing to control their supporters after the City substitute Javier Garrido was struck on the head by a coin as he headed down the tunnel at half-time. The FA statement added: "The FA fully expects the club to use all available means to identify and deal with the culprit appropriately and, along with the fan who entered the field of play, look to issue bans on attending future matches."
The FA's decision on Bellamy represents a major relief to Hughes, who last week lost Emmanuel Adebayor to a three-match ban for violent conduct against a former Arsenal colleague, Robin van Persie. Despite the successive incidents, however, the City manager sees no reason to order his players to improve their behaviour.
"You can't take emotion out of football or any sport for that matter because that is fundamental to what you are trying to create," insisted Hughes. "That passion from the players' point of view is fundamental to how they develop as a top player. Every player who plays for Manchester City has passion but there will be varying degrees of it, because all players and personalities are different. You have to have it."
Hughes also issued a staunch defence of Bellamy's actions in the Manchester derby and believes the FA had to take the pitch invasion into account. "The guy should not have been on the pitch," he added. "Craig went over to tell him to get off the pitch as quickly as he could, the guy made an aggressive move towards him and Craig has instinctively put his hand up in a defensive manner and pushed the lad away. That is the top and bottom of it and I think people will see that for what it is."
The City manager would not elaborate on Neville's provocative celebrations in front of the City supporters, despite accusing his former team-mate of behaving "like a lunatic" immediately after the derby. He will, however, demand a similar punishment for Adebayor after the Togo international was charged with improper conduct for running at Arsenal supporters following his goal at Eastlands on 12 September. "There is a lot of hysteria surrounding everything we do at the moment," Hughes said. "All we ask is that if we have to answer to the FA [regarding Adebayor's celebrations] then we will be looking for that balance."
Hughes was content with Sir Alex Ferguson's post-match description of City as a "noisy neighbour" or, to be more precise, the idea that the United manager is more venomous in his criticism of his local rivals now that he perceives them as a genuine threat.
"In terms of the amount of noise our fans made on Sunday you could possibly say we are a noisy neighbour, although I don't think we made as much noise as is being made out," added the City manager. "If that is people's perception [of Ferguson's agenda] then yes, we are quite comfortable with that. After our performance against Arsenal and the character we showed at Old Trafford, they know we are not going to go away. We are going to have an influence on who wins the Premier League in the seasons to come."