FA chiefs hit Sir Alex with five game ban

MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be consigned to the stands for the entire month of April after Football Association chiefs threw the book at him for repeatedly criticising referees.

Ferguson has been ordered to serve a five-match touchline ban and pay a hefty fine of £30,000 for remarks he made about referee Martin Atkinson following his side’s defeat at Chelsea earlier this month.

He will not be allowed in the dugout for the FA Cup semi-final against local rivals Manchester City at Wembley, as well as Premier League matches against West Ham, Fulham, Everton and their closest title rivals Arsenal.

The suspension comprises three games for improper conduct plus two matches suspended for his criticism of another official, Alan Wiley, following a draw at home to Sunderland last season.

Ferguson will have 48 hours to consider an appeal once the FA decision arrives at Old Trafford today, meaning his ban will not start until after Saturday’s league visit from Bolton.

If he appeals and fails, his ban, which does not extend to the dressing room, could be extended by another game, meaning he would miss a potentially decisive fixture against Chelsea at Old Trafford.

The FA acted after Ferguson (inset) called Atkinson’s impartiality into question after the 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge, saying: “You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway, and we didn’t get that.”

The punishment is a fresh setback just as United seemed to have recovered from a rocky patch, overcoming successive league defeats to Chelsea and Liverpool with wins over Arsenal in the FA Cup and Marseille in the Champions League.

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