Ancelotti defends Ferguson's stance

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Sir Alex Ferguson has received the backing of rival Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti after being hit with another FA improper conduct charge.

This time, Ferguson is in trouble because he elected to praise Howard Webb ahead of last week's crunch encounter between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford. In saying Webb was "the best referee for the job", Ferguson contravened the Football Association's rule E3 and ignored a written warning sent to all clubs in October.

"I am surprised about this - 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."


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 with Arsenal boss Arsenal Wenger voicing similar sentiments to Ancelotti.

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

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