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I'm innocent insists Evans

By Emily Moulton

Northern Ireland and Manchester United football star Jonny Evans was released on bail last night by police investigating an alleged rape at the club's Christmas party on Monday.

The Newtownabbey teenager, who strongly denies any wrongdoing, presented himself to police after jetting back into Manchester Airport following a day-trip to Monaco, thought to be pre-arranged with a relative.

He then spent the night in custody before being questioned at length by police for most of yesterday.

Following their inquiries, Greater Manchester Police granted the 19-year-old defender bail until February 23.

Evans is believed to have told team-mates on being released: "I didn't do this. I can't believe this is happening."

The highly-rated young player's arrest is said to have shocked his Old Trafford team mates, many of whom had reportedly been partying for something like 13 hours that day.

Evans, who has won eight caps for Northern Ireland, is seen as an up-and-coming star at Old Trafford and has played 18 league games for Sunderland last season while out on loan from United.

Last night, the club was refusing to comment on the allegation.

The teenager is not the first United or Northern Ireland player to be accused of rape.

Two years ago Cristiano Ronaldo was arrested over claims that he raped a woman at a London hotel.

But the Portuguese star, who was not at Monday's party, was not charged.

And three years ago Evans' Northern Ireland team-mate and close friend Keith Gillespie spent over a week in jail after he and fellow Leicester City players Paul Dickov (32) and Frank Sinclair (33) were accused of raping three German women at a Spanish resort in 2004.

The trio were later released on £40,990 bail and the charges against them were subsequently dropped.

In this latest incident, Greater Manchester Police were called to the Great John Street Hotel at 4.15am on Tuesday following reports that a 26-year-old woman had been raped.

And yesterday the Manchester Evening News reported that players were entertained by burlesque dancers during their meal at the Manchester 235 Casino.

They were also reported to have had a drink at the Old Grapes, a pub owned by former Coronation Street actress Liz Dawn.

It is also believed that the players had reportedly paid £100,000 for Monday's party and invited around 100 girls back to the £395-a-night Manchester hotel.

The event is said to have been organised by England defender Rio Ferdinand who is reported to have held a whip round to which 25 players gave £4,000 each.

Wives and girlfriends were not invited and the alleged victim was there with her boyfriend.

The venue, Great St John Street Hotel, which overlooks the Coronation Street set, was closed yesterday as police removed potential evidence.

As news of the scandal broke yesterday morning, players arrived as normal at their Carrington training ground shortly after 9am.

Evans was not among them.

Following his release, a security guard was placed outside his home in Sale, Greater Manchester.

The footballer was not believed to be inside the house at the time.

Evans recently made his full Manchester United debut when he played 90 minutes against Roma at the Stadio Olympico in the Champions League.

He also played a number of Northern Ireland's key matches in their recent European Championships qualifying campaign.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who is reported to have reluctantly agreed to the players' festive party, raved about Evans' potential last year and said: "He's got a wonderful temperament.

"He's quick, he reads the game and he has a good technique on the ball. He's got everything."

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