Ferdinand risks cup final place with appeal

Defender may miss out on Wembley showpiece if he challenges four-game FA ban
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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand is considering gambling on extending his ban for violent conduct to a fifth game, jeopardising his appearance in next month's Carling Cup final against Aston Villa, by challenging his conviction by the Football Association yesterday.

Ferdinand has until close of business on Monday to make that decision, having already gambled once and lost in his strategy to delay a suspension to play in the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City by pleading not guilty. He subsequently received a four-match FA ban yesterday – meaning he will play no more football before next month's final.

Ferdinand was advised on Wednesday morning that the video footage of him striking Hull City's Craig Fagan in the face during United's 4-0 win at Old Trafford last Saturday provided incontrovertible evidence and he was told by Graham Bean, United's adviser on disciplinary issues and a former FA compliance officer, to plead guilty and accept an immediate three-game ban. But Ferdinand dismissed advice that the video footage was "difficult to defend" and after a tricky night against Carlos Tevez at Old Trafford had the ban extended to four games on grounds that his "frivolous defence" had allowed him to play in a vital game.

Sir Alex Ferguson had hoped that Ferdinand, who desperately needs games after a three-month absence with a back injury before last Saturday, would be acquitted of the charge. "I think if it's a fair hearing then he's got a good chance because he was wrestled, punched, there was all sorts of things happening," Ferguson said before the hearing. "He just tried to wrestle free of it and unfortunately for us he's caught him in the back of the neck or something."

United did not have the opportunity to put a case to the FA regulatory commission, so their arguments that Liverpool's Javier Mascherano escaped a charge after apparently hitting the Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford in the Carling Cup in September last year were not aired during yesterday's hearing.

Ferdinand will now miss United's visit to the Emirates on Sunday, the home game against Portsmouth and visits to Aston Villa and Everton before potentially returning for the 28 February final against Martin O'Neill's side providing he accepts his conviction.

Though Tevez struck for the third time across the two legs of the Carling Cup tie, Ferguson was peremptory yesterday about the role played by a player who appeared to suggest in an interview last week that he left United for a sum of £30m. "We never saw Carlos – until he's hit his header in we were in complete control," Ferguson said.

The footballers Ferguson bracketed Tevez with, when detailing those players who had scored against United after he had sold them, were by no means leading lights in his 24-year era. "I remember Peter Davenport scoring against us, Norman Whiteside, Mark Robins. It happens, it's just one of these things," Ferguson said, though Andy Cole, Henning Berg and Dwight Yorke had all accomplished the same feat.

United are unlikely to face punishment over a missile-throwing incident in which Craig Bellamy was hit by a coin in the second half and was narrowly missed by a bottle hurled at him. Two suspects were arrested on Wednesday night and the FA is satisfied with security arrangements.

City, who last night concluded the deal under which Robinho will head to Santos on loan until the summer, continued their £5m pursuit of Middlesbrough's England under-21 winger Adam Johnson, with Chelsea indicating they will not try to sign the player this month and Johnson declaring that he would like the opportunity to meet with Mancini's side. A move appears likely.

United expect to have Nemanja Vidic back alongside Jonny Evans to face Arsenal on Sunday, while the news of Thomas Vermaelen's probable absence will have Wayne Rooney salivating having scored 21 times this season. "He was up there on his own," team-mate Darren Fletcher said of Rooney's performance on Wednesday. "Sometimes it's difficult for him but there's no-one you would rather have up on his own because he does the work of two players. He rattles about and maybe doesn't get on the ball as much as he would like but his work-rate, the quality he has got, is amazing."

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