Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson cancelled his customary pre-game news conference yesterday while he considered whether to appeal against a Football Association charge of improper conduct.
Ferguson was charged on Thursday over comments he made about referee Martin Atkinson after Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea in which he said he had “feared the worst” when he had seen who was officiating the match.
The manager’s news conference yesterday, where he was expected to talk about tomorrow’s Premier League match against Liverpool, was cancelled and local media reported he was not even speaking to the club’s in-house television channel MUTV.
Some of the comments that have got him into trouble with the FA were made to, and broadcast by, MUTV, which is where Ferguson usually speaks when he has decided not to give news conferences in the past.
Ferguson criticized Atkinson after Chelsea came from behind to win with a Frank Lampard penalty awarded after Chris Smalling was ruled to have tripped Yuri Zhirkov.
The Scot was also angry that Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz, who had equalized, escaped a red card for a second-half challenge on Wayne Rooney.
“It was a major game for both clubs and you want a fair referee,” Ferguson said. “You want a strong referee anyway and we didn’t get that.”
Ferguson has until Tuesday to respond to the charge which comes after a defeat that has thrown the title race wide open just as United had started to look like they were heading comfortably towards a record 19th championship.
GAME IN HAND
With 60 points, they have a four-point lead over second-placed Arsenal but Arsene Wenger’s side have a game in hand.
By the time Ferguson’s team kick off at Anfield tomorrow, against the rivals who will be hoping to derail United’s bid to beat the championship record they currently share, their lead could have been cut to one point as Arsenal play Sunderland today.
By the time United play their next match after that, it could be without Ferguson in the dugout as the manager has a suspended two-match ban hanging over him from a previous punishment which could kick in on top of any new penalty.
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