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Fergie defence to hinge on use of 'fair'

ESPNsoccernet understands Sir Alex Ferguson will attempt to battle a possible touchline ban by telling the FA he did not cast aspersions on Martin Atkinson's fairness.

Ferguson is believed to feel unhappy that the FA have charged him with improper conduct for his comments about 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".

However, ESPNsoccernet has a transcript of the words the FA has taken issue with, and has learned how Ferguson has questioned the FA's interpretation of those words. His own interpretation, he believes, will totally exonerate him.

Such is the sensitive nature and high profile of this case, which could impact on United's title challenge, the FA is keeping the venue and timing of the hearing under wraps until the last minute, although it is understood to be "imminent".

There are those within the FA who believe Ferguson should not be shown any preferential treatment and should be hit with a hefty fine and lengthy touchline ban. But everything revolves around the use of the word "fair".

The United manager believes his comments have been incorrectly taken out of context and hopes that charges will subsequently be dropped.

Ferguson told MUTV following the Chelsea defeat: "You hope you will get a real strong ref in games like this. It was a major game for the club. You want a fair ref, you know, and you want a strong ref, anyway, and we didn't get that."

Ferguson's argument is that "we didn't get that" refers to a "strong referee" and not "fair".

A source said: "Sir Alex is determined to fight his. He feels that there was a lot of feeling about the Wayne Rooney incident, and a media backlash against that elbow incident, which the FA felt powerless to do anything about, so they are doing something about this."

This is the fifth time in five years that 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 offense.

He wrote in his programme notes for the FA Cup quarter-final win over Arsenal: "I will be defending myself strongly when my FA appeal hearing comes up. I felt aggrieved and I now face an FA charge for what, to my mind, was simply telling the truth.

"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. 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."


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