4 January 2013 22:53

A Manchester City fan has been banned from matches for three years after confronting Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand on the pitch.

The supporter, named Matthew Stott, pleaded guilty to pitch encroachment and using threatening behaviour.

He received the match ban and a 56-day prison sentence, suspended for a year, as well as a three-month curfew and 120 hours community service.

District Judge Richardson did reserve praise for Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart, who intervened to stop the fan from reaching Ferdinand.

“As a follower of football the level of passion connected with kicking a ball around is difficult for many to comprehend,” Richardson told the court.

“You may very well have excited a huge popular response by supporters of the other team. Thanks to Mr Hart that did not happen.

“This has to be a custodial sentence which I will suspend but you are lucky you are not going straight down.”

The incident occurred after Robin van Persie scored a last-minute winner to put United 3-2 up against their cross-city rivals.

Several Manchester United players ran to the stands to celebrate, sparking angry scenes in which Ferdinand was first hit in the face with a coin.

Stott was also ordered to pay 145 pounds, while several other supporters were handed sanctions relating to incidents that took place during the same match.