Monday 18 December 2017

Ferdinand may give England cold shoulder

Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand

Mark Ogden

Rio Ferdinand is considering rejecting Roy Hodgson's call-up for England's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro in order to prolong his career at Manchester United, following talks with Alex Ferguson.

The 34-year-old, who has been overlooked by England manager Hodgson and predecessor Fabio Capello since winning the last of his 81 caps against Switzerland at Wembley in June 2011, is understood to be torn between returning to the international fold and focusing purely on club commitments at Old Trafford.

While Ferdinand regards the prospect of playing at the World Cup next year as hugely appealing, he is aware of Ferguson's concerns over his ability to cope with the physical demands of representing United and England.

Obstacle

Ferdinand's relationship with Hodgson is also an obstacle to be overcome, with sources close to the player and senior figures at United pointing to the defender's anger and confusion at the manner of his treatment at the hands of the former Fulham manager, who omitted Ferdinand from England's Euro 2012 squad for "football reasons."

With Ferdinand displaying impressive form for United in the second half of last season, Hodgson's justification was regarded by many as convenient, if unconvincing, reasoning at a time when John Terry was defending himself in court against allegations of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Anton.

Terry was ultimately cleared of the charge after Chelsea and England team-mate Ashley Cole had acted as a witness on his behalf – prompting Rio Ferdinand to retweet a tweet which used the racially-loaded term "choc-ice" against Cole.

While Ferdinand is prepared to return to a squad including Cole, and even work under Hodgson, the prospect of jeopardising his United future and relationship with Ferguson by returning to the England squad is pointing the player towards rejecting his call-up – a move which would effectively end his international career.

Although Ferguson insisted yesterday that Ferdinand's attempts to win a new contract at United – his current deal expires in June – would not be affected if he resumed his England career, the Old Trafford manager's position left little ambiguity.

"Roy Hodgson phoned me to say he had called him (Rio) up and I was quite surprised," Ferguson said. "I did say to him that I will talk to Rio.

"The issue is not that (amount of games), the issue is his whole preparation for football today. It involves treatment, it involves rest. Our preparation for Rio in games has been fantastic. Our medical staff and fitness lads have done a great job with him. That's the issue.

"Of course it (call-up) is a concern because he (Ferdinand) knows the procedures we have to go through. I will have a chat with him and the doctor and see what we should do."

Ferguson, Ferdinand and club doctor Steve McNally discussed the ramifications of the England call-up at Carrington yesterday and the player is understood to be considering his position over the weekend.

Response

Although Ferdinand has yet to reply to a text informing him of his call-up from the English Football Association on Thursday, such a lack of response is not unusual and he has until Monday evening to report to St George's Park with the rest of Hodgson's squad.

Ferguson, who is expected to select Ferdinand against Reading at Old Trafford this evening, is likely to be asked about the player's intentions following the game, but he insists that the final decision will be Ferdinand's. "It doesn't rest with me, it rests with Rio," Ferguson said.

"I need to speak to Rio about that (way England have treated him) I don't know what his attitude will be."

Former England captain Gary Lineker, meanwhile, has urged Ferdinand to ignore Ferguson's concerns and put his country first. On his Twitter page, Lineker wrote: "Seems SAF is not keen for @rioferdy5to play for England.

"Big players never allow managers to dissuade them from playing for their country." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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