Edinson Cavani, the Manchester United striker, could face a three-game ban if the Football Association deems that he used discriminatory or racist language in an Instagram story shared from his account on Sunday evening.

The FA has confirmed it is investigating the post, which was published shortly after United’s 3-2 win over Southampton, in which Cavani scored two goals after coming on as a half-time substitute.

In the post – which was later deleted – the words “gracias negrito!” are used to thank a follower congratulating Cavani on his performance in the match at St. Mary’s.

Social media postings are covered by FA Rule E3, and if a comment is deemed to include a reference to a person’s ethnic origin, colour, race or nationality, then that will be regarded as a potential aggravating factor in any punishment. The rules also make it clear that the owners of social media accounts are responsible for any content posted from their account, whether by themselves or by a third party.

Additionally, deleting an inappropriate post does not necessarily prevent a sanction from being imposed. Last year, Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva was banned for one match after posting and then deleting a tweet comparing his teammate Benjamin Mendy to the cartoon figure on a brand of Spanish chocolate. If the FA decides to pursue the case it will write to Cavani in the next few days asking for his written observations. Any charge must be issued by next Monday.

The word in question – “negrito” – was the same one used by Cavani’s friend and Uruguay teammate Luis Suárez to Patrice Evra during a game between Liverpool and Manchester United in 2011. At the time, Suárez argued that the word was a term of endearment and not intended as a form of racial abuse. However, the FA’s disciplinary panel rejected this explanation, and Suárez was banned for eight matches.

At the start of this season, the FA issued fresh guidelines on racist language and behaviour on social media, with offences carrying a minimum ban of three matches. Manchester United were not available for comment on Sunday night.

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