Extended ban for Ferdinand

MANCHESTER United defender Rio Ferdinand has been banned for four matches for violent conduct, meaning he will miss Sunday’s trip to Premier League title rivals Arsenal.

Ferdinand received an extra one-game suspension on top of the standard three because the Football Association considered his appeal against the charge frivolous.

That appeal allowed the England centre-back to delay his ban, meaning he was free to play in Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City.

But the result is that the 31-year-old, who has just returned from a lengthy injury absence, will miss games against Arsenal, Portsmouth, Everton and Aston Villa.

Ferdinand was charged for swinging an arm into the face of Hull’s Craig Fagan as the pair jostled for position during United 4-0 win on Saturday. Referee Steve Bennett took no action at the time but the FA intervened after reviewing footage of the incident.

United yesterday confirmed the signing of Fulham defender Chris Smalling, after the 20-year-old successfuly completed a medical and signed a four-year contract.

England Under-21 international Smalling will stay at Fulham for the rest of the season and move to Old Trafford in July. It caps a whirlwind 18 months for Smalling, who was only plucked from non-league Maidstone in the summer of 2008.

United saw off competition from Arsenal for the £10m-rated player, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson said: “Chris is an extremely talented young defender, who we have been monitoring for some months. He’s very quick and reads the game well.”

Smalling said: “The chance of coming to the biggest club in the world is something I just couldn’t turn down. I can’t wait.”