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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been charged by the Football Association with improper conduct following comments made about referee Howard Webb.

Ferguson made the comments before last weekend's victory over Chelsea in the Premier League, a result which means United are in touching distance of a 19th title. Although his remarks appeared to be innocuous, including a statement that he believed Webb to be the "best man for the job'', they contravened FA Rule E3.

Ferguson previously said: "We are getting the best referee, there is no doubt about that. But (getting a bad decision) is definitely our big fear. We have the players to do it all right. We just hope it's our turn for a little bit of luck.''

New FA rules state no manager is allowed to speak about a referee in advance of a fixture being played, and, as Ferguson's comments came two days before the Blues clash, he was in breach of the law.

It remains to be seen what punishment the Red Devils boss will receive as he has recently returned from a five-match touchline ban for statements made about Martin Atkinson in the wake of the defeat at Chelsea on March 1.

However, Ferguson could yet appeal the decision and he has until 1600 BST on May 16 to respond to the charges.

The FA's viewpoint is that any comment, positive or negative, prior to a game could be interpreted as an attempt to influence a match official. And this is what they pointed out in a letter dated October 21, 2010 that was sent to all clubs, confirming such comments would be frowned upon.

''Pre-match comments concerning the appointed match officials for a particular fixture, whether the official is identifiable by name or by implication, are deemed by the FA to amount to improper conduct, in breach of FA Rule E3,'' said the letter. ''We wish to make it clear any breach of the rule will result in respect of pre-match media comments will result in a formal disciplinary charge.''

Having delivered such an unequivocal assessment of their position, the FA felt they had little alternative other than to bring the charge against Ferguson.

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