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Ferguson tests FA's patience with new ref rant

The Manchester United manager was furious with Mark Clattenburg for sending-off Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher towards the end of the English champions' 1-1 Premier League draw away to Birmingham City in Birmingham on Saturday.

sports Updated: Jan 10, 2010 11:45 IST

Sir Alex Ferguson may have landed himself in further trouble with the Football Association (FA) after his latest withering assessment of a referee.

The Manchester United manager was furious with Mark Clattenburg for sending-off Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher towards the end of the English champions' 1-1 Premier League draw away to Birmingham City in Birmingham on Saturday.

Ferguson has only recently served a two-match touchline ban for criticising the fitness of referee Alan Wiley earlier this season and has a two-match suspended sentence hanging over his head from the FA.

But that did not stop him from indulging in another spot of referee baiting at St Andrews following a match where a win for United would have seen them replace Chelsea at the top of the table.

Fletcher was dismissed for two yellow cards, the second of which was for a foul on Birmingham goalscorer Cameron Jerome three minutes from the end of another sub-standard performance by Ferguson's side, just a week after their FA Cup capitulation to third division Leeds United.

Rather than concentrate on the deficiencies of his players, Ferguson opted for a concerted attack on Clattenburg, saying: "I saw him referee Arsenal against Spurs recently and someone needed to take out an axe to get booked and then he sends someone off for that. It was very, very soft.

"I've not seen a softer sending-off for a long time, absolutely ridiculous.

"There were some weird and wonderful decisions going on out there. The linesman gives offside for our goal and it's an own-goal! (which negates offside). And he still gives offside."

Ferguson, who may well be asked for an explanation of his comments by FA officials, insisted he was happy with a draw against an in-form Birmingham side managed by Alex McLeish, who played for the United manager when he was previously in charge of Aberdeen.

The United boss made seven changes from the team beaten by Leeds, but was forced to leave out Dimitar Berbatov because of a knee injury that is causing some concern for the Bulgaria striker.

"Berbatov has been carrying a little knee injury and played with it last week," Ferguson said. "We'll just try to get him sorted and get him fit again."

Reflecting on the match, he added: "We're satisfied with a point because this is a difficult place to go to. It's not a bad point.

"It's a tough league. I have been saying that for months," Ferguson insisted. "I don't know if anyone is listening.

"Going to Birmingham is not going to be easy. Teams like Birmingham have really improved, Alex has players that will run 100 miles for him. It is a point gained for us."

Birmingham broke a club record stretching way back to 1907-08 with their 12th successive top-flight unbeaten league game and only Scott Dann's own-goal deprived them of a famous victory.

But McLeish refused to get carried away and insisted Premier League survival was his only target, even though that seems all but assured for a Birmingham side that are now eighth in the table.

"We have done nothing yet, because we could lose every remaining game this season," the former Scotland defender said.

"It is a record to be proud of, but I am not that interested in statistics."

Sporting Gijon midfielder Michel was a guest at St Andrews for the game and is expected to complete a 2.75 million pounds transfer early next week depending on the outcome of a medical.