Sir Alex Ferguson handed five-match ban for outburst
By Matt Slater
BBC sports news reporter
Ferguson criticised Atkinson after Man Utd's defeat by Chelsea
A Football Association tribunal has given Sir Alex Ferguson a five-match touchline ban for his comments about referee Martin Atkinson.
The Manchester United manager was found guilty of improper conduct for criticising Atkinson's display in the loss at Chelsea earlier this month.
Ferguson has yet to decide if he will appeal but said: "It is disappointing.
"It is the only industry where you can't tell the truth. But it is in the past now."
Ferguson had told MUTV after the Chelsea game: "You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway - and we didn't get that."
The Scot's ban starts on 22 March and includes the FA Cup tie against Manchester City.
The Independent Regulatory Commission's sanction comprises a three-game ban for the Atkinson remarks and the activation of a two-game suspended ban that Ferguson earned last season for saying referee Alan Wiley was not "fit enough" to keep up with play.
The three-man panel also fined the 69-year-old manager £30,000.
Should he accept the punishment, the Old Trafford boss will have to watch the Premier League games against West Ham, Fulham, Everton and Arsenal from the stands, as well as the semi-final against local rivals City at Wembley.
His outburst about Atkinson followed
a hard-fought contest at Stamford Bridge
which saw United score first but lose to second-half goals from David Luiz and Frank Lampard, the latter coming from the penalty spot.
Ferguson was furious that Luiz had not been sent off for fouls on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney after the Brazilian defender had already been booked. He was also angry about the decision to award Chelsea a penalty when Yuri Zhirkov fell under Chris Smalling's challenge.
The veteran manager may consider himself a little unlucky about the severity of the punishment as he did temper his remarks in the MUTV interview by changing his initial comment about wanting a "fair referee" to the less contentious "strong referee".
But the FA has clearly taken into account the final warning he was effectively given last season for criticising Wiley and the fact he contested these charges.
It is the longest touchline ban in Premier League history but three games short of the two consecutive bans Celtic manager Neil Lennon is currently serving in Scotland.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was given a 12-game ban from the dugout for pushing a fourth official in 2000 but that was reduced to one match on appeal.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti defended Ferguson and believes the punishment handed out is too harsh.
"I think that, my opinion, is that Ferguson has always had good behaviour and I think five games now is too much," he said. "There is no reason he has to be out for five matches and I do not think that can change their strength and the power of Manchester United.
"I know what he said after the game. Obviously it was not good behaviour but five games is too much."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.