Fergie urged to accept charge over 'unacceptable' ref criticism
Alex Ferguson will be urged by his legal advisers this morning to plead guilty to a Football Association charge of improper conduct and told that he may face a three-match dugout ban after his latest outburst against a match official.
Ferguson's thoughts are on Sunday's match against Liverpool, and he is hopeful Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans will be fit -- despite claims that Chris Smalling and Wes Brown will be in central defence -- as Nemanja Vidic is suspended.
Ferguson is unlikely to respond with an immediate guilty plea to the FA charge, as it would see him forced into the stands for Anfield.
Ferguson clearly implied bias -- one of three ways of breaching rules on post-match comments -- when he told Manchester United's in-house TV station MUTV that Martin Atkinson was not a "fair" referee after Tuesday's defeat at Chelsea, despite immediately rowing back from this claim.
"You want a fair referee, you know, you want a strong referee anyway and we didn't get that," the manager said. "I don't know why (Atkinson) got the game. I must say that when I saw who was refereeing it, I feared the worst."
Ferguson was warned when hit with a two-game ban and £20,000 fine in November 2009 over comments made about Alan Wiley's fitness that any further offences before the end of the current campaign would see him sent to the stands for a further two games.
The ban could be extended by a further game when the latest incident is appended, though many within the game feel a fine is more likely than an extension.
There was indignation from many quarters yesterday about the way Ferguson had praised official Mark Clattenburg for not dismissing Wayne Rooney for what looked like a deliberate elbow on Wigan's James McCarthy last Saturday, but turned on Atkinson.
"Rank hypocrisy" was the former England manager Graham Taylor's description of this, while Alan Leighton, head of the referees' union Prospect, said the United manager's comments had been "unacceptable".
Ahead of Sunday's clash, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has insisted he is unmoved by the prospect of Ferguson overhauling Liverpool's 18 titles.
"I never had any feelings," he said. "You take greater satisfaction from when your own team is successful, and they've been more successful than Liverpool over the past 20 years. But at the end of the day we've still got bits we can hang on to. We've still won five European Cups."
Meanwhile, midfielder Michael Carrick has signed a new contract with United that will keep him at Old Trafford until 2014. (© Independent News Service)