FA charges Ferguson after criticizing referee

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was charged Monday with improper conduct after questioning a referee’s fitness.

Ferguson could now face a fine or a touchline ban after the Football Association ignored the fact that he issued a public apology.

The criticism of Wiley following the 2-2 draw with Sunderland earlier this month helped to deflect attention from United’s poor performance.

Ferguson has until Nov. 3 to respond to the charge and can request a personal hearing.

“He just wasn’t fit enough for a game of that standard,” Ferguson said of Wiley at the time. “The fitness of the players, the pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He took 30 seconds to book a player, I think he’s taking a rest writing down names on his card.”

While Ferguson apologized for “any personal embarrassment” by criticizing Wiley, the 67-year-old Scot maintained that the fitness levels of referees did not match the demands of the modern game.

Ferguson said: “My only intention in speaking publicly, was to highlight what I believe to be a serious and important issue in the game, namely that the fitness levels of referees must match the ever increasing demands of the modern game, which I hope will now be properly addressed through the appropriate formal channels.”

The defending champion needed an own goal by Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand in the second minute of stoppage time to salvage the draw.

Wiley blew the whistle immediately after the four minutes of stoppage time had elapsed. As well of criticizing Wiley’s fitness, Ferguson also said he should have added 30 more seconds to allow for the goal celebration.

Ferguson, who became manager at Old Trafford in 1986, has frequently courted controversy with his comments about referees over the years.