Fergie in the dock

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LONDON, Nov 12 – Sir Alex Ferguson was due to appear before a Football Association disciplinary hearing on Thursday to answer a charge of improper conduct relating to his outspoken attack on referee Alan Wiley.FERGUSONThe Manchester united manager publically labelled Wiley as "unfit" after his Premier League champions were held to a 2-2 draw by Sunderland at Old Trafford on October 3.

Ferguson accused Wiley of not being "fit enough for a game of that standard" and of "walking up the pitch for the second goal needing a rest".

The 67-year-old Scot has since apologised to Wiley for the personal nature of his comments, and will be hoping to avoid a sanction that could see him handed a touchline ban.

Ferguson issued his apology on United’s website in the wake of strong opinion his comments had served to undermine the FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign, although he maintained his assertion that the fitness of referees in the Premier League remained an issue to be discussed.

"I apologise to Mr Wiley for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused and to the FA for going public with my views," Ferguson said at the time.

"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."

Whether Ferguson’s willingness to bring the issue of referee fitness into focus will help him avoid a sanction remains to be seen, but certainly he has remained outspoken about the standard of the match officials since his outburst at Wiley.

Following his side’s 2-0 defeat to Liverpool last month, Ferguson questioned whether Andre Marriner, who took charge of the game at Anfield, had the required experience for a match of such significance.

He also accused Martin Atkinson of being in an "absolutely ridiculous" position when he awarded Chelsea the free-kick that led to their winner against United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

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