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FA appoints Fergie row ref for final

The Football Association has confirmed that Martin Atkinson, the referee at the centre of the controversy that resulted in Sir Alex Ferguson's five-match ban, will take charge of the FA Cup final.

• United avoid FA action

Atkinson, 40, will officiate the final between Manchester City and Stoke City at Wembley on May 14, along with his assistants Adam Wats and Simon Beck. He was the fourth official at the 2009 final.

He said: "It's such a massive game domestically and I'm very proud and honoured to be appointed. I started refereeing when I was 15 and never thought back then that I'd be walking out at as the FA Cup final referee at Wembley Stadium one day.

"My team on the day are all FIFA international officials and we've all worked together before so it's great that they're being recognised and I'm delighted for them.

"I'm great friends with Howard Webb so I'll be speaking to the likes of him, David Elleray and Mike Riley about refereeing the FA Cup final. They've got great experience in those sorts of games and will really help me prepare for May 14."

The decision to appoint Atkinson for the game is a vote of confidence from the FA in a man who was criticised by Ferguson following a Premier League loss for Manchester United at Chelsea at the start of March.

Ferguson said "we need a fair referee and a strong referee and we didn't get one", following a red card for Nemanja Vidic and Atkinson's decision not to dismiss David Luiz at Stamford Bridge.

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