Fergie is ready and 'charged' up

London: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has denied a charge by the Football Association that he implied a referee's assistant was motivated by bias.

Speaking after a 1-1 draw at Tottenham earlier this month, Ferguson was angry that linesman Simon Beck didn't award a penalty when United was leading 1-0.

Ferguson claimed in a television interview that "there was no way we were going to get a decision from" Beck, citing a 2010 decision to allow a goal by Didier Drogba to stand for Chelsea when the manager claimed the striker was offside.

The FA announced Friday that Ferguson denied "he implied that the match official was motivated by bias." Ferguson has requested a "paper hearing", meaning that his written explanation will be submitted and he won't have to attend.

Late night reports on Friday however claimed that Ferguson could face a FA hearing and a possible touchline ban.

Meanwhile, United will start as favourites against Fulham on Saturday, a week after they strolled to a 4-1 victory over the west London club in the FA Cup fourth round.

That match was billed as the return of Dimitar Berbatov to his former club, but the Bulgarian's contribution amounted to little more than a lackadaisical stroll around his former Old Trafford stomping ground. United maintained their own title march with a 2-1 win over Southampton on Wednesday thanks to two goals from England striker Wayne Rooney.

Chelsea face a tricky visit to Newcastle on Saturday after their form under interim manager Rafa Benitez again came under the spotlight when they gave away a two-goal lead for the second time in two weeks to draw 2-2 at Reading in midweek. Tottenham Hotspur's form has also faltered and they will be hoping to win their first match in four against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday after three successive league draws.

Arsenal, who showed their own defensive fragility in a comical and error-strewn first half against Liverpool, will face a different challenge at home to the physical and direct Stoke City. A midweek slip-up has again left Manchester City needing seven points to draw level with title rivals United ahead of a weekend encounter with an unpredictable Liverpool side capable of inflicting further pain.

A defeat and City could find themselves 10 points adrift, deep into the second half of the season.

Weekend Fixtures


QPR vs Norwich; Arsenal vs Stoke; Everton vs Aston Villa; Newcastle vs Chelsea; Reading vs Sunderland; West Ham vs Swansea; Wigan vs Southampton; Fulham vs United


West Brom vs Tottenham; Manchester City vs Liverpool


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