The former FA compliance officer, Graham Bean, claims the FA is guilty of making an example out of Sir Alex Ferguson because of his and the club’s high profile.

Ferguson was fined £30,000 and given a three match ban, on top of his suspended sentence of two matches, for saying that he wanted a “fair referee” after Martin Atkinson yet again made wrong decisions in a game between United and Chelsea which changed the result of the game.

Bean claims managers this season have been guilty of similar comments, calling in to question the integrity of the referee, yet have not been punished at all, let alone as severely as United’s manager.

“Where it goes seriously wrong for the FA is that there have been cases of managers in the Premier League making comments which have been a clear implication of bias against the referee, or questioning the referee, yet virtually nothing has been done,” he said. “The FA has serious questions to answer in terms of why they have not taken action against other individuals. There are two cases which we referred to in Ferguson’s defence against the Atkinson charge.

“Firstly, Roberto Martínez — three days before Ferguson made his comments at Chelsea — claimed after Wayne Rooney had clashed with James McCarthy that one of his players ‘would have been lucky to stay on the pitch’ had he committed the foul. That was a clear allegation of bias towards Manchester United, but the FA did nothing about it. Harry Redknapp, making comments about the referee and assistant after Nani scored a controversial goal at Old Trafford against Spurs earlier this season, said, ‘They [officials] will go in and come up with a story that will make it all look right, that’s what happens’. That was clearly worse, one of the major comments of the season, yet the FA did absolutely nothing about it other than send him a letter. That comment in itself suggested collusion between the match officials. The FA says it treats each case on it merits, but in effect they have bottled it on many occasions in terms of dealing with post-match comments by managers. That’s because they move the goalposts to suit themselves.”

Other examples of commensts claiming bias in the referee which went unpunished this season are when Tony Pulis said: “Surprised to see [Dean] back on one of our games with his record against Stoke.” Also, Roberto Mancini said: “It’s normal – the big club usually has different treatment.”

Bean went on to claim that the FA respond to media pressure which is why, after the reaction of the press to Ferguson’s comments, they decided to throw the book at him.

“The FA reacts to media pressure and Alex believes that,” Bean continued. “In all of his disciplinary issues we have made a point of noting that the media coverage of Manchester United is out of comparison to every other club in the country — it’s twentyfold bigger and that causes problems in itself. They are being punished because of their profile and not because of what they have done. In the Atkinson case, the penalty did not fit the crime. While the FA might say that Sir Alex or the club should know better, that’s not the way it should be.”