Rio's final gamble
Rio Ferdinand is considering gambling on extending his ban for violent conduct to a fifth game, jeopardising his appearance in next month's Carling Cup final against Aston Villa, by challenging his conviction by the English FA yesterday on a charge of violent conduct.
Ferdinand has until close of business on Monday to make that decision, having already gambled once and lost in his strategy to delay a suspension to play in the Carling Cup semi-final derby against Manchester City by pleading not guilty to the offence.
He subsequently received a four-match English FA ban yesterday -- meaning he will play no more football before next month's final.
Ferdinand was advised on Wednesday morning that the video footage of him striking Hull City's Craig Fagan in the face during United's 4-0 win at Old Trafford last Saturday provided incontrovertible evidence and he was advised by Graham Bean, United's adviser on disciplinary issues and a former FA compliance officer, to plead guilty and accept an immediate three-game ban.
But Ferdinand dismissed advise that the video footage was "difficult to defend" and after a tricky night against Carlos Tevez at Old Trafford, had the ban extended to four games on grounds that his "frivolous defence" had allowed him to play a vital game.
Alex Ferguson had hoped that Ferdinand, who desperately needs games after a three-month absence with a back injury before last Saturday, would be acquitted of the charge.
"I think if it's a fair hearing, then he's got a good chance because he was wrestled, punched and there was all sorts of things happening," Ferguson said before the hearing.
"He just tried to wrestle free of it and,unfortunately for us, he's caught him in the back of the neck or something."
United did not have the opportunity to put a case to the FA regulatory commission, so their arguments that Javier Mascherano escaped a charge after a similar incident were not aired during yesterday's hearing.
Ferdinand will now miss United's visit to the Emirates on Sunday, the home game against Portsmouth and visits to Aston Villa and Everton before potentially returning for the February 28 final against Martin O'Neill's side.
Though Tevez struck for the third time across the two legs of the Carling Cup tie, Ferguson was peremptory yesterday about the role played by a player who appeared to suggest in an interview last week that he left United for a sum of £30m.
"We never saw Carlos -- until he hit his goal, we were in complete control," Ferguson said, in what was a miserly analysis of Tevez's contribution to the game.
The choice of players Ferguson bracketed Tevez with when detailing those who had scored against United after he had sold them, were by no means leading lights in his 24-year era.
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