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Friday, March 18, 2011

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On target: Real Madrid's Marcelo takes a shot on goal against Lyon in Champions League second-leg, round of 16 action on Wednesday night. Real won 3-0 and advanced 4-1 on aggregate. AP PHOTO

F.A. hits Ferguson with five-game suspension

LONDON (AP) Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson received a five-match touchline ban and a heavy fine from the Football Association on Wednesday for criticizing a referee after a Premier League match.

Ferguson was charged with improper conduct after blasting the performance of match official Martin Atkinson in United's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea on March 1, saying his team didn't get a "fair or strong referee."

Ferguson appealed but an Independent Regulatory Commission "found the charge of improper conduct relating to media comments proven." He was fined £30,000 ($48,000).

The outburst earned him a three-game ban and two matches were added to the sanction because of a previous suspended sentence hanging over Ferguson.

The Scotsman's suspension starts on Tuesday.

Ferguson was furious that Atkinson refused to send off Chelsea defender David Luiz for fouls on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney after the Brazil international had already been booked.

He was also critical of the awarding of a late penalty to Chelsea for United defender Chris Smalling's foul on substitute Yuri Zhirkov. Frank Lampard converted the spot kick for what proved to be the winning goal.

"I must say, when I saw who the referee was, I feared it. I feared the worst," Ferguson said on United's in-house television channel, MUTV.

Half of a four-match penalty for questioning referee Alan Wiley's fitness after a match last season had been suspended until the end of this campaign.

United's defeat at Chelsea was followed five days later by a 3-1 loss at fierce rival Liverpool, leaving Ferguson's team top of the Premier League but with only a three-point lead over Arsenal, which has a game in hand.

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