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Sir Alex Ferguson claims criticism of referee was 'fair comment'

Sir Alex Ferguson claims criticism of referee was 'fair comment'Sir Alex Ferguson has maintained that the Football Association was unjust in punishing him for his criticism of referees, saying he was guilty of nothing more than "fair comment" and reiterating his belief that Manchester United have been the victim of "terrible" decisions.

"You've just got to be careful that you don't have paranoia about it," said a manager who continues to show no sign of remorse for incurring five disciplinary charges from the FA in as many years because of his hostility towards referees.

Ferguson's outburst about Martin Atkinson's handling of United's defeat at Chelsea this month has led to a five-match touchline ban, a record punishment for a manager criticising a referee in the media.

Part of that comes from having a two-match ban hanging over him as a suspended sentence from a previous FA charge, when he described another referee, Alan Wiley, as physically unfit to officiate at the top level in October 2009.

The FA hearing into his latest case noted how Ferguson had not shown any regret for stating that Atkinson should not have been appointed for the Chelsea game because the occasion demanded "a fair referee". Ferguson's legal adviser, Graham Bean, has since described the governing body as "like a communist state".

"If you speak your mind, it's a problem in the game," Ferguson said. "The FA is very strong in supporting the referees and, in a way, I agree with that but there has to be fair comment also. I try to do that."

Ferguson remains aggrieved by Atkinson's refereeing at Stamford Bridge, noting that the same official also made a series of decisions allegedly in Chelsea's favour in the corresponding fixture last season.

The two sides meet again at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League next week. Before that Ferguson will serve the second game of his ban, when the league leaders resume their challenge for a record 19th title at West Ham United on Saturday, and he will subsequently have to suffer the ignominy of being the first manager to be banned from Wembley's dug-out when he takes his side back to London for the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City on 16 April.

That match will see Carlos Tevez facing the club he left in acrimonious circumstances and Ferguson could not resist taking a swipe at the Argentinian's representatives as he reflected on the circumstances that led to the player asking for a transfer from City earlier this season.

Almost certainly referring to Kia Joorabchian, Ferguson said: "Knowing the background, the people representing him, I'm not surprised."

Tevez's future in Manchester has been shrouded in doubt since the affair blew up but Ferguson, who also reiterated his belief that "retirement was for young people," was impressed by the way City dealt with a difficult situation.

"I don't think that Manchester City would want to let him go," he added in an interview with ESPN. "He's had a great time there, he's been their top scorer, their best player for the last two years, so why would they want to sell him?

"I think City addressed that situation a few months ago and it seems to have calmed down, as far as I know. You don't know everything at every club, but it seems to have settled down and, in [Roberto] Mancini, they have a strong manager who can deal with that."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Daniel Taylor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 30th March 2011 18.48 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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