Rio Ferdinand could miss the Carling Cup final later this month after Manchester United decided yesterday to appeal against his extended four-match ban for elbowing Hull's Craig Fagan during the 4-0 win against the Tigers last month.
The England defender was found guilty of violent conduct by the FA. Ferdinand pleaded not guilty to the charge and that plea bought him time to play in last week's Carling Cup semi-final win over Manchester City.
Had he had pleaded guilty, the case would have been dealt with more quickly but he would have missed the derby match.
However, the decision to plead not guilty backfired when the FA's independent regulatory commission found him guilty of elbowing Fagan in the face, and then decided to add an extra game to the mandatory three-match suspension.
An FA statement said: "The Independent Commission felt that the player's denial of the charge was frivolous and on that basis have awarded an additional one match ban upon the statutory three-match ban awarded for violent conduct."
The FA's decision angered the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and now the Premier League champions have decided to appeal against the addition of an extra game.
If the appeal is successful, and the ban is reduced back to three games, Ferdinand will be free to face Everton on 20 February. However, if United lose the appeal the FA has the power to extend Ferdinand's ban up to five games which would sideline him until the end of the month and so force him to miss the Carling Cup final against Aston Villa at Wembley on 28 February.
United have informed the FA of their decision to appeal and will lodge the relevant paperwork by tea-time today.
Ferdinand, who is currently serving his ban, now faces an anxious wait before a hearing date is set and will be sweating over his chances of playing in the first major final of the season.
The first game of the ban was Sunday's match against Arsenal at The Emirates, which United won 3-1. Ferdinand is also banned for this weekend's home game against Portsmouth and the midweek trip to Aston Villa a week tomorrow.
Ferguson said before Ferdinand's original hearing: "If it's a fair hearing then he has a good chance. He was wrestled and punched, all sorts of things happened to him, and he was just trying to wrestle free from it."