Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has defended his comments about referee Martin Atkinson that led to him being charged with improper conduct by the Football Association.
The Red Devils’ boss faces another fine and touchline suspension following his remarks about the official in the aftermath of United’s 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on March 1.
Ferguson was left incensed with Atkinson for awarding the Blues a late penalty and failing to show defender David Luiz a second yellow card for challenges on both Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez.
The FA charge, which Ferguson has appealed, preceded the Old Trafford supremo enforcing a media blackout – including United’s own television channel – as the Red Devils suffered back-to-back league defeats with a 3-1 loss to Liverpool at Anfield.
However, the Scot has since come out of hiding, insisting that he is relishing the opportunity to fight his corner over the charge and that his recent shunning of the press was simply intended to take some of the spotlight off his side.
“It has been a tumultuous week, but we will get over it and along the way I will be defending myself strongly when my FA appeal hearing comes up. In fact, I am looking forward to the challenge because, to my mind, I have not said anything out of place,” he says in his matchday programme notes for United’s FA Cup clash with Arsenal.
“[And] don’t read too much into the fact that I withdrew my briefings for the media; that was simply because I felt that the spotlight was burning on us so brightly that the best policy at that point was least said, soonest mended. I didn’t think we would win the media battles, so I retreated.
“I won’t be on the back foot when I put my case to the FA, though. I don’t think sticking up for my team makes me a villain, especially when you consider that Manchester United have one of the best disciplinary records in the country.”
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Read Sir Alex Ferguson's programme notes in full in Saturday's edition of United Review ahead of the Red Devils' FA Cup Sixth Round tie with Arsenal at Old Trafford, priced at £3 in and around the ground. To subscribe, call 08456 777801 or visit www.themagazineshop.com