MANCHESTER United has apologised to supporters after anti-Catholic chanting was heard during the Champions League clash against Celtic earlier this month.

The European governing football authority, UEFA, is in the process of gathering evidence after sections of the United following were heard to sing an anti-papal song which also had anti-Irish republicanism sentiments. The chanting was heard during and after the crucial clash, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

United, the current champions of Europe, salvaged a point in the dying minutes of a tense affair after trailing the Scottish champions for most of the match. UEFA has pledged to crack down on discriminatory practices among football supporters.

Recently Atletico Madrid was punished after its fans were heard chanting racist slogans during a Champions League match, which resulted in a heavy fine and the team being forced to play a future European tie behind closed doors.

It is understood that chants from some Manchester United fans will be investigated for religious and ethnic bigotry by UEFA, which has launched a campaign called Respect to tackle such issues.

Supporters of the Scottish club said they were "shocked by the sectarian and racist singing from the United fans", while Manchester United officials have called on their supporters to desist from such "offensive and inappropriate songs". A club spokesperson said: "Manchester United do not condone or promote the chant that was sung at Celtic Park."

She continued, "We would like to apologise for any offence caused and we will continue to work with our fans to eliminate such offensive and inappropriate songs."

UEFA has come under pressure to clamp down on all forms of bigotry from fans across the continent.

The UEFA spokesman added, "UEFA’s disciplinary unit is currently tying to gather more evidence in order to see if disciplinary proceedings could be opened concerning this matter."

Danny Lynch from the anti-bigotry football charity Kick It Out expressed surprise at the incident: "I was always under the impression that Celtic and United had a good relationship because both teams have, a strong Irish background," he said. n The Universe

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