Monday 19 March 2018

Alex Ferguson claims Rio Ferdinand will join up with England ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Jason Burt

Alex Ferguson said that Rio Ferdinand will meet up with the England squad as planned on Monday.

The defender had been agonising over whether to commit to playing for his country again but, according to Ferguson, he has decided he wants to play a role in England's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Speaking after Manchester United's win over Reading on Saturday, Ferguson said: "Yes, he (Ferdinand) will definitely go."  On Friday night Ferdinand had received a telephone call from England manager Roy Hodgson as fears grew that the 34-year-old might withdraw from the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers.

The England manager informed Ferdinand that he would not be expected to play in Friday's tie away to San Marino but would start the vital game away against Group H leaders Montenegro the following Tuesday.

Manchester United had raised concerns that Ferdinand, who follows a strict training regime to manage his back problems, might suffer a set-back if he returned to international football having previously been overlooked by Hodgson. The manager also has to build bridges with Ferdinand, who was left angry by not being selected for Euro 2012 and has not been chosen or spoken to since. Hodgson called Ferdinand on Friday and left a message on his mobile phone voicemail.

Hodgson also called Sir Alex Ferguson who had raised his own doubts on Friday morning and had held a meeting with Ferdinand and United's medical staff that afternoon.

But after the reassurances and following Saturday's victory over Reading, which Ferdinand played in, Ferguson said the defender would now accept the call-up.

Ferdinand has a tailored fitness and conditioning regime to prolong his career. Hodgson, in his message, told Ferdinand that England's medical team would adhere to whatever programme he follows.

Despite the tension between the pair Ferdinand was not informed in advance of his England selection with Hodgson simply insisting that he hoped "the chance to play for England and represent the country would be great motivation" for any player.

Hodgson has an unofficial policy of not contacting any player ahead of a squad announcement although it could be argued that Ferdinand, given the circumstances surrounding his exclusion for Euro 2012 and John Terry's impending trial for allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand's brother Anton, for which he was cleared, represented a special case.

It is believed that Ferdinand would have appreciated being notified in advance so, at least, he could have adjusted his training schedule — although there were worries at the Football Association that the news would leak out.

It is understood that in his meeting with United Ferdinand was warned that playing and training with England while not under United's specialist care would be a risk given his fitness record.

Hodgson added: "Whenever players come to join us we always research what their routines are with their club sides, what they are used to doing two days after a match, for example, or the day before a game and to some extent we take that into account in our programme.

"Our medical people are in constant contact with the medical people and the sports science people at all the clubs so we have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done.

"I think it's very important, I regard myself as a sort of custodian of these players, they belong to the clubs, they are contracted to the clubs, that's where they earn their money."  There is no suggestion, however, that the offer of a new United contract to Ferdinand — his present deal expires this summer — would have hinged on not returning to international football.

But if he remains in the squad it might impact on his first-team involvement.

Only last month Ferdinand said he would "pack my bag and go straight there" if he was called up by England.

Online Editors

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