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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Ramos handed five-match ban

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has been banned for five games for verbally abusing referee Miguel Angel Ayza Gomez during Madrid's 4-0 Copa del Rey win over Celta Vigo at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night.

The Spanish league's disciplinary committee reached the decision on Thursday afternoon, after turning down Madrid's appeal against the first yellow card shown to the defender in the Celta game. Ramos will now miss his team's Primera Division games against Osasuna, Valencia and Getafe, as well as both Copa del Rey quarter-final ties against Valencia.

Ramos reacted angrily when he picked up his second booking for a dangerous challenge on Celta's Augusto Fernandez with 20 minutes of the game remaining, and the referee's report filed by Ayza Gomez after the game reportedly said Ramos directed foul language at the officials, while accusing them of being biased against Madrid.

"As soon as he was shown the second yellow card Real Madrid's number four, Sergio Ramos Garcia, addressed my person in the following terms: 'You are a shameless scoundrel (sinverguenza),' repeating that phrase three times and saying 'you have spent the whole f**ing day f***ing us', repeating that phrase twice," the report said. "Later, when he arrived at the bench, he addressed the assistant referee in the following terms: 'Always the same, what shameless scoundrels you are', repeating this phrase twice."

According to article 94 of the Spanish league's disciplinary code "insulting, offending or showing an offensive attitude towards the referee... is punishable by a suspension of between four and 12 games". Adding the automatic one-game ban for the red card, that would appear to mean Ramos faces at least five games out - three in La Liga against Osasuna, Getafe and Valencia, and both Copa del Rey quarter-final legs against Valencia.

The Spanish authorities have taken a noticeably more serious approach to such offences this season, with a recent precedent being the four-game suspension given to Espanyol forward Sergio Garcia for using the same word ('sinverguenza') towards referee Carlos del Cerro Grande in a Primera Division game against Osasuna. Ramos' offence was found to be similarly grave, with the fifth game of his ban being the automatic suspension for the initial red card.

Speaking directly after the game the Spain international told reporters that he felt the sending off had been unfair and could have cost Madrid the game.

"It was not a challenge for a second card," Ramos said. "I will not comment on the referee, because it is more of the same. I am leaving very annoyed, because the tie was in the balance and things like this happen. To see what happened you can watch the television."

Possibly realising he was in trouble, Ramos later used his personal Twitter account to apologise for his actions.

"I regret the incident with the ref, these are moments of tension produced by my sending off," he tweeted. "We say things that afterwards we are sorry for."

However, he later tweeted that the referee should also be punished for his role in the incident.

"Independently of whether I think it (the punishment) is fair or not, I want to apologise to the coaching staff, my colleagues and the fans," Ramos tweeted.

"I hope that it will be equal in fairness and justice with those given to referees."

Former Sevilla defender Ramos was already the most sent-off player in Madrid's history, and has now picked up 15 red cards in his seven and a half seasons at the Bernabeu.

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