x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ferguson shuns media after speaking against referee

The Manchester United coach avoids the spotlight including his own club's media as he ponders appeal over charge of improper conduct.

MANCHESTER // Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, cancelled his customary pre-game news conference while he considered whether to appeal against a Football Association charge of improper conduct.

Ferguson was charged yesterday over comments he made about referee Martin Atkinson after this week'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 today, where he was expected to talk about Sunday'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 criticised 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 equalised, 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.

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 on Sunday, 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 on Saturday.

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.