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Ferguson suspended for five matches

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been banned for five matches following his tirade against referee Martin Atkinson, the Football Association announced yesterday.

Ferguson landed in hot water with the FA after blasting Atkinson’s performance in the Red Devils’ 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this month.

The United manager ignored advice from his club’s legal department and vowed to contest charges of improper conduct, but has now been hit by a hefty ban as his team enter a critical phase of the season.

Ferguson had appeared to question Atkinson’s integrity when he stated that he had wanted a “fair referee” to control the match with Chelsea.

The FA deemed Ferguson’s criticism had gone too far.

“At an independent regulatory commission today (Wednesday) Sir Alex Ferguson was handed a touchline suspension for three matches and fined a total of £30,000,” said an FA statement.

“The commission found the charge of improper conduct relating to media comments proven, following remarks made in relation to match official Martin Atkinson in post-match interviews after Manchester United’s fixture with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday March 1, 2011.

“Furthermore the commission invoked a two-match suspended touchline ban, relating to a previous charge of improper conduct in relation to media comments made in October 2009.

“Therefore Sir Alex Ferguson was ordered to a serve a five-match touchline ban commencing on Tuesday March 22, 2011.”

The enactment of Ferguson’s suspended sentence means the United boss will be barred from the touchline for United’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

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