Sir Alex Ferguson handed five-game ban

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been handed a five-match touchline ban and £30,000 fine by the Football Association following his criticism of referee Martin Atkinson.

Ferguson had been charged with improper conduct by the FA after questioning Atkinson following United's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea at the start of the month.

He was unhappy with Atkinson's failure to show Chelsea defender David Luiz a second yellow card for a trip on Wayne Rooney before the visitors scored a decisive penalty and United then had Nemanja Vidic sent off.

"You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway - and we didn't get that," said Ferguson to MUTV in the aftermath of the game.

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

Ferguson had opted to appeal the charge and, speaking prior to United's FA Cup win over Arsenal at the weekend, stated that he had truth on his side.

"I felt aggrieved and I now face an FA charge for what, to my mind, was simply telling the truth," he wrote in his programme notes.

"I will be defending myself strongly when my FA appeal hearing comes up.

"In fact, I am looking forward to the challenge because, to my mind, I have not said anything out of place, however much the media urge the FA to take action."

However, the FA has found Ferguson guilty of the charge and the long-serving United boss has been hit with five-game ban from the dugout.

The length of the ban is in part due to the two-game suspended tariff he had hanging over his head for questioning the fitness of referee Alan Wiley last season.

The ban does not come into force until Tuesday 22nd March, so Ferguson will be on the touchline for Saturday's game against Bolton Wanderers.

He will then be in the stands for the Premier League matches against West Ham, Fulham and Everton and he will not be allowed in the dugout for next month's FA Cup semi-final against arch-rivals Manchester City.

Currently, the last game of the ban would be the Sunday 1st May showdown with title rivals Arsenal, although that could change depending upon when United rearrange their postponed fixture against Newcastle United.