Sir Alex Ferguson was today given a five-match touchline ban and a £30,000 fine for his verbal attack on referee Martin Atkinson at Chelsea last month, the Football Association said.
In what he felt was a perfectly justifiable assessment of Atkinson's performance, the Manchester United boss questioned why the Yorkshire-based official had been given the game.
He criticised Atkinson's failure to send Blues defender David Luiz off for fouls on Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney after the Brazilian had already been booked, then expressed comments the FA disciplinary panel felt had questioned the official's integrity.
"You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway - and we didn't get that," said Ferguson in the aftermath of the 2-1 defeat.
"I must say, when I saw who the referee was I feared it. I feared the worst."
Ferguson will spend the whole of April in the stands.
"At an independent regulatory commission today (Wednesday) Sir Alex Ferguson was handed a touchline suspension for three matches and fined a total of £30,000," said an FA statement.
"The commission found the charge of improper conduct relating to media comments proven, following remarks made in relation to match official Martin Atkinson in post-match interviews after Manchester United's fixture with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday March 1, 2011.
"Furthermore the commission invoked a two-match suspended touchline ban, relating to a previous charge of improper conduct in relation to media comments made in October 2009.
"Therefore Sir Alex Ferguson was ordered to a serve a five-match touchline ban commencing on Tuesday March 22, 2011."
The official conclusions will arrive at Old Trafford tomorrow and Ferguson will then have 48 hours to appeal, meaning any sanction will not start until after Saturday's Premier League encounter with Bolton.
However, unless Ferguson is successful with an appeal he will miss all April's scheduled domestic games, including the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City at Wembley, and also the Premier League trip to Arsenal on May 1, unless a visit to Newcastle, postponed due to that City clash, is re-arranged for the midweek immediately after the semi.
As recently as Saturday, Ferguson was bullish about the battle that lay ahead, using his programme notes ahead of the Arsenal cup-tie to declare: "I now face an FA charge for what, to my mind, was simply telling the truth.
"I will be defending myself strongly when my FA appeal hearing comes up.
"In fact, I am looking forward to the challenge because, to my mind, I have not said anything out of place, however much the media urge the FA to take action.
"The papers keep on and on about it because Manchester United are involved, and they failed to get the FA compliance unit to pick up on the Wayne Rooney incident in the Wigan game.
"I won't be on the back foot when I put my case to the FA, though.
"I don't think sticking up for my team makes me a villain, especially when you consider that Manchester United have one of the best disciplinary records in the country."
There is certainly a school of thought that Ferguson has been harshly treated given he replaced the word "fair" with "strong" in his post-match interview with United's in-house station MUTV almost immediately.
However, it is also felt the Alan Wiley case, from which the two additional matches stem after Ferguson questioned his fitness following a home draw with Sunderland, was a warning to the United boss that any further transgressions would be dealt with severely, as has proved to be the case.Reuse content