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04 Mar 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson has been charged by the Football Association with improper conduct over comments he made about referee Martin Atkinson.

The Manchester United boss said he had "feared the worst" when Atkinson was appointed for Tuesday's game with Chelsea, which United lost 2-1.

Ferguson has until 1600 GMT next Tuesday to respond to the charge.

He also has two matches of a four-game ban from last season hanging over him after remarks about referee Alan Wiley.

BBC Sport understands that he is likely to contest the charge.

Following their defeat at Stamford Bridge, Ferguson told MUTV: "You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway - and we didn't get that.

"I must say, when I saw who the referee was I feared it. I feared the worst."

Ferguson was angry over Atkinson's failure to dismiss Chelsea defender David Luiz for fouls on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney after he had already been booked.

He was further upset when Chelsea were awarded what he considered a "soft" penalty when Yuri Zhirkov fell under the challenge of Chris Smalling.

If Ferguson's suspended ban is triggered, he will be suspended from the touchline for United's FA Cup sixth-round tie with Arsenal at Old Trafford on 12 March and the Premier League game with Bolton a week later and then whatever extra games - if any - are added on for his latest outburst.

United's loss at Stamford Bridge pegged their lead over Arsenal back to four points, with the Gunners having played a game less.

Arsenal could close the gap to one point with a home win over Sunderland on Saturday, with Ferguson's team playing Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

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