The following is a roundup of soccer stories from U.K. newspapers, with clickable links to the Web.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is facing the prospect of a minimum two-match touchline ban for criticizing referee Martin Atkinson following his team’s 2-1 loss at Chelsea two days ago, the Guardian reported.
The Football Association is deliberating whether to open proceedings against Ferguson after he castigated Atkinson for not sending off Chelsea defender David Luiz and blaming the defeat on a series of refereeing decisions, the newspaper said.
Ferguson has a suspended two-game touchline ban hanging over him for saying in 2009 that Alan Wiley was not physically fit enough to referee in the Premier League, a punishment that will be triggered if he’s found guilty of misconduct for his criticism of Atkinson, the Guardian added.
Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier is set to cut 11 players from his squad in the offseason as he tries to reduce the team’s outlay on wages, the Sun reported.
Brad Friedel, John Carew, Nigel Reo-Coker, Robert Pires, Stephen Ireland and Stephen Warnock are all likely to leave, the newspaper said, while Isaiah Osbourne, Habib Baye, Brad Guzan, Moustapha Salifou and Shane Lowry may also be forced out.
“With the financial fair play rules coming up, we need to keep a balance between what we’ve spent and the turnover of the wage bill,” the Sun cited Houllier as saying.
Old Firm Fight
Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant coach Ally McCoist face “severe punishment” from the Scottish Football Association for clashing after their teams’ Scottish Cup fifth-round replay in Glasgow last night, the Mail reported.
Lennon and McCoist squared up to each other on the touchline following Celtic’s 1-0 win, during which Rangers had Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra sent off before El Hadji Diouf joined them on a red card for dissent after the final whistle, the newspaper added.
Newcastle is interested in signing former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise as a replacement for Jose Enrique, who may leave for Anfield in the offseason, the Mirror reported
Riise, 30, has one more year left on his contract with Italian club Roma and would be available for a cut-price fee, the newspaper added.
Owl Mascot Dies
Panama defender Luis Moreno was suspended for two matches and fined for kicking an injured owl that landed on the field during a Colombian league game, the Mirror said.
The bird, which was an unofficial mascot for Barranquilla club Atletico Junior, died after local vets worked for 30 hours to save it, the newspaper reported. Moreno, who plays for Deportivo Pereira, apologized and said that he was just trying to get the owl off the pitch, the Mirror said.