Sir Alex Ferguson has made it clear he intends to fight the possibility of an extended touchline ban, insisting he has “not said anything out of place” and accusing the Football Association of charging him with improper conduct because of pressure from what he considers is an anti-Manchester United media.
Ferguson believes he has been unfairly victimised for his criticisms of the referee, Martin Atkinson, after United’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea earlier this month, when he claimed the official should never have been appointed because the occasion needed “a fair referee”.
His hearing will take place this week – the fifth time in as many years Ferguson has been charged because of comments either to or about a referee – and the United manager already has a suspended two-game touchline ban hanging over him for a previous offence.
The FA’s case is based on the fact that Ferguson appears to allege Atkinson showed bias towards Chelsea but, explaining why he was fighting the charge against the initial advice of United’s legal team, Ferguson said he stuck by his words.
“I will be defending myself strongly when my FA appeal hearing comes up,” Ferguson writes in his programme notes for today’s FA Cup quarter-final against Arsenal. “In fact, I am looking forward to the challenge because, to my mind, I have not said anything out of place, however much the media urge the FA to take action.”
Ferguson goes on to express his belief that the FA have been railroaded into charging him. “The papers keep on and on about it because Manchester United are involved, and they failed to get the FA Compliance Unit to pick up on the Wayne Rooney incident in the Wigan game.”
Reflecting on a “tumultuous week,” Ferguson then explained why he had impoed a media blackout after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool last weekend.
“Don’t read too much into the fact that I withdrew my briefings for the media; that was simply because I felt that the spotlight was burning on us so brightly that the best policy at that point was least said, soonest mended. At that particular time I didn’t think we would win the media battles, so I retreated.
“I won’t be on the back foot when I put my case to the FA, though. I don’t think sticking up for my team makes me a villain, especially when you consider that Manchester United have one of the best disciplinary records in the country.”