Ferdinand's deadline to appeal against ban

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Rio Ferdinand has two weeks to decide whether to appeal against the eight-month ban imposed on him by an independent three-man disciplinary commission for failing to take a drugs test.

The Manchester United and England centre-back's ban was originally due to start next Monday. But in line with Football Association regulations, United requested written confirmation of the precise reasons behind the punishment.

United revealed in a brief statement yesterday that they have received the confirmation. "Manchester United can confirm that Rio Ferdinand's lawyers have today received the written reasons for the FA's decision at the hearing of December 19, 2003," it read. "The player now has 14 days to decide whether to appeal, and until that decision has been taken no further comment will be made."

However, at the weekend, the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said Ferdinand was almost certain to appeal. If Ferdinand does not appeal he will be able to play up to and including United's game against Wolves on 17 January, and the first fixture he would miss would be the FA Cup fourth-round trip to Northampton or Rotherham.