Appeal may cost Ferdinand place in Cup final
RIO Ferdinand will risk missing the Carling Cup final after lodging an appeal with the English FA yesterday against his increased ban for violent conduct.
The Manchester United defender lost his initial appeal against a three-match suspension for deliberately striking Craig Fagan, the Hull City striker, in the face with an arm during United's 4-0 Premier League win at Old Trafford 10 days ago.
An independent regulatory commission ruled last week that his decision to contest the charge was "frivolous" and increased the ban to four games. But Ferdinand will argue that there was a sound basis for his challenge as he attempts to have the extra one-match suspension -- which rules him out of the league game away to Everton on February 20 -- overturned.
Alex Ferguson, the United manager, had claimed that Ferdinand was "wrestled and punched" by Fagan in the lead-up to the incident.
If the appeal is unsuccessful, however, the FA retains the power to increase the punishment again, raising the prospect of Ferdinand also being banned for the Carling Cup final against Aston Villa at Wembley on February 28. The case is likely to be heard next week.
As much as Ferdinand's absence is a concern for Ferguson, the United manager has plenty to be positive about in the wake of a memorable fortnight, during which time his team beat Hull, defeated Manchester City 3-1 in the second leg of their Carling Cup semi-final and crushed Arsenal by the same scoreline to keep up the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the table.
Wayne Rooney's breathtaking form has been well documented, but it is the impressive contributions of Nani, the Portugal winger, since his return from injury a little more than a fortnight ago that has proved such a welcome bonus for Ferguson.
Nani's United career was in jeopardy late last year after he criticised Ferguson in an outspoken interview with a Portuguese newspaper, but he was challenged during talks with the manager to prove during the second half of the season that he deserved to stay at Old Trafford beyond the summer and, so far, the player appears to have heeded the warning.
Ferguson's frustration with Nani centred on the belief that, for all his talent, the player's decision-making remained flawed, but excellent displays against Hull, City and Arsenal suggested that the message is finally getting through, even if the manager will want to see if the Portuguese can maintain a high level of consistency.
Nani is having a better time of it of late than Anderson, who was also signed amid much hype in July 2007. Despite rejecting approaches from Lyons and Paris Saint-Germain for the Brazil midfield player in the past week, United may listen to offers for Anderson in the summer if his form and attitude do not improve. (© The Times, London)