Ferguson left shocked and bemused by FA's Evra ban

United may appeal over four-match suspension for Stamford Bridge fracas
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Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday spoke of his extreme frustration at the four-match suspension that has been given to Patrice Evra by the Football Association and has not ruled out an appeal once the written details of the ban arrive at Old Trafford.

Evra has been fined £15,000 and could miss the Premier League games against Stoke and Middlesbrough as well as the FA Cup third-round trip to Southampton and the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Derby after he was found guilty of improper conduct for his part in a fracas with Chelsea groundstaff after the 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge in April.

Chelsea were fined £25,000 over the groundsman Sam Bethell's role in the altercation but Ferguson, who could not resist a barb or two at the FA, insists that the matter could be up for discussion again once United's chief executive, David Gill, receives the full details.

"It was a shock, I must admit," Ferguson said. "Of all the things the FA has done to this club over the years, that was one of the big shocks. The written reasons haven't been delivered to David Gill yet so we can't really comment on what our next step is going to be and we're waiting on that coming.

"You can never guess what these people are doing and I couldn't tell you... I wouldn't know what they were thinking if I was sitting at the breakfast table with them."

Despite Ferguson maintaining that Cristiano Ronaldo could feature in tonight's Champions League game against Aalborg, the Portuguese is likely to be rested to ensure that he has fully recovered from a hip injury picked up in the 1-0 win over Sunderland at the weekend, while Michael Carrick will also miss the game with a minor knock.

Gary Neville will start at Old Trafford tonight. The defender is still making his way back to full fitness after a year and a half fighting ankle and knee problems. Ferguson has been supportive of his captain and praised his performance in the 5-3 Carling Cup victory over Blackburn last week. But Neville, 33, has made just four Premier League starts this season and in his absence Rafael Da Silva has impressed in the role.

"I think that what we're doing with Gary is not rushing him in every game," Ferguson said. "He's 34 in February and he's been out for a year and a half, so measuring his comeback as we are doing has definitely benefited him. Last week he was outstanding, a great performance and I think that with Gary – he was a young player here also and he knows what happens when a player like Rafa breaks into the club."

Neville, whose contract expires at the end of the season, acknowledges that he has not rediscovered the form he previously took for granted. "I've not been able to stay fit enough, long enough, or produce consistently good enough performances to stay in the team, simple as that," he said. "You've got to be realistic and honest with yourself. The first thing you've got to do is stay fit. If you do that over a long period of time, you get the opportunity to get your level of performance to something that is acceptable for this club.

"As I sit here now, I'm fit. I was fit for the game last week. But, am I fit to the level you expect or the level I want to be at? No. I've only played one or two games since I've come back. I want to get to seven, eight, nine or 10 games over a longer period. That's got to be the aim for me."

Ferguson also insisted he is happy with the progress of negotiations with Carlos Tevez's representatives about keeping the Argentinian forward at Old Trafford beyond the current season. "David [Gill] has been talking to his agent and therefore it's best left with David because he's good at that," Ferguson said. "We're used to this over the years and we're all used to it. You just have to be patient. It is not as if we have been short of negotiations. But I think we all know they can take a long time, and this one is just going along.

"When you have a squad of players, everyone must get their share [of match time]," Ferguson explained regarding Tevez's lack of minutes on the field. "The important thing is Carlos makes a great contribution. He has started a few games already. By the end of the season, you will see how many he has participated in – and that contribution will have been very important to us.

"No one has played all the games. They have all had minutes on the clock; some have had time on the bench, and sometimes they have not been involved at all. That is exactly what happens with squad rotation in the modern game."

Manchester United (4-4-2): Foster; Neville, Evans, Ferdinand, O'Shea; Park, Fletcher, Anderson, Nani; Rooney, Tevez.

Aalborg (4-5-1): Zaza; Bogelund, Olfers, Jakobsen, Pedersen; Enevoldsen, Augustinussen, Risgard, Caca, Due; Saganowski.

Referee: L Duhamel (Fr).

21

Matches since Manchester United lost a group match at Old Trafford – to Deportivo in 2001.

Group E

Results: Celtic 0 AaB Aalborg 0; Manchester Utd 0 Villarreal 0; AaB Aalborg 0 Manchester Utd 3; Villarreal 1 Celtic 0; Manchester Utd 3 Celtic 0; Villarreal 6 AaB Aalborg 3; Aab Aalborg 2 Villarreal 2; Celtic 1 Manchester Utd 1; AaB Aalborg 2 Celtic 1; Villarreal 0 Manchester United 0.

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