Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes have been handed three-match suspensions for their dismissals in the Amsterdam Tournament earlier this month.
Manchester United had been convinced an independent disciplinary committee would clear the pair on appeal given that both red cards came in a pre-season friendly and that members of the Football Association's hierarchy - anxious to repair relations with Old Trafford after the controversies of the Sven Goran Eriksson era - felt Rooney in particular had been harshly treated.
That illusion was shattered yesterday, however, when the committee upheld the decisions of Dutch referee Ruud Bossen, who sent off Rooney for violent conduct and Scholes for serious foul play against Porto, and dismissed United's belief that the punishments should be downgraded to bookable offences.
Rooney and Scholes will each be banned for three matches against Charlton, Watford and at home to Tottenham on 9 September, although they will be eligible for the season's opener against Fulham on Sunday.
The suspensions also expose the lack of depth in United's squad. Ferguson is left with a forward line of just Louis Saha, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Giuseppe Rossi in the absence of Rooney, while Michael Carrick's ankle ligament injury leaves United without an established central midfield.Reuse content