Premier League

Bosses leap to Fergie's defence

PREMIER LEAGUE
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Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti have defended Sir Alex Ferguson after the Manchester United boss was charged for comments about Howard Webb.

Ferguson has been hit with yet another improper conduct charge by the Football Association because he elected to praise Howard Webb ahead of last week's crunch clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford.

In saying Webb was "the best referee for the job", Ferguson contravened the FA's rule E3 and ignored a written warning sent to all clubs in October.

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It means Ferguson is now facing more possible disciplinary misery, only three weeks after he returned to the dug-out after serving a five-match ban for his negative assessment of Martin Atkinson's performance during United's Premier League defeat at Chelsea on March 1.

Ferguson has until 4pm on Monday to respond, and for once he is receiving sympathy for the treatment he is receiving.

"I think he spoke positively about Howard Webb," said Ancelotti.

"I don't think he tried to put pressure on the referee before the game."

Ancelotti can count himself fortunate not to be charged himself given he expressed similar sentiments prior to the Old Trafford clash.

"I am surprised about this," agreed the Italian.

Wenger too feels Ferguson has been harshly treated on this occasion.

"It was a shock to the FA," laughed Wenger. "They are not used for him to be complimentary.

"He is entitled to have that opinion. To me, it doesn't look to be a major problem to say that somebody is good. I would not charge him for that."

It is not the nature of Ferguson's words which have landed him in bother, more the fact he has said them at all.

The FA announced the charge an hour after Ferguson's pre-match press conference ahead of a trip to Blackburn, which is expected to bring his 12th Premier League title.

The fundamental point is that Ferguson ignored a demand which was put in place prior to the start of last season and reinforced in written form less than seven months ago.

"Pre-match comments concerning the appointed match officials for a particular fixture, whether the official is identifiable by name or by implication, are deemed by the FA to amount to improper conduct, in breach of FA Rule E3," said the letter.

"We wish to make it clear any breach of the rule in respect of pre-match media comments will result in a formal disciplinary charge."

United have refused to comment on the matter, although it is felt a fine is the most stringent punishment Ferguson can expect on this occasion.

However, Wenger feels it would be better for everyone if, rather than release the names of match officials at the beginning of each week, a draw was held 48 hours before a game to decide who would control each game.

"I don't like comments about the referee before a game. Afterwards I can understand that a manager should have a bit of freedom to express his opinions because the frustration is sometimes so big," said the Arsenal boss.

"But you have to give the referee every chance to go into a game with a clear head and without pressure.

"I believe that you should not know the name of the referee before the game anyway.

"It should be a draw 48 hours before and nobody should know who is refereeing what game.

"That would keep everybody away from problems before a game."

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