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Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson suspended for five games after questioning referee's integrity

Af Alex Ferguson, the often acerbic Scot who has coached Manchester United since 1986, has been handed a five-game suspension by the English Football Assn. for his comments questioning the integrity of referee Martin Atkinson.

Ferguson, 69, received a three-game ban for the comments and had two more games tacked onto the punishment from a previous, provisionally suspended ban. He also was fined $48,000 by the F.A.

The comments were made on Manchester United's in-house television network after the team's 1-0 loss at Chelsea. At the time, Ferguson was angry at calls and noncalls by Atkinson in a top-of-the-table English Premier League clash.

"You hope you get a really strong referee in games like this," Ferguson said. "It was a major game for both clubs and you want a fair referee. You want a strong referee anyway, and we didn't get that.

"I don't know why he's got the game. I must say when I saw who was refereeing it, I feared the worst."

Ferguson's ban goes into effect Tuesday and will force him to miss first-place Manchester United's league matches against West Ham United, Fulham, Everton and second-place Arsenal, as well as an F.A. Cup semifinal against rival Manchester City.


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Photo: Manchester United Coach Alex Ferguson. Credit: Andrew Yates / AFP/Getty Images

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