New deal for Rio after Ferguson backs down
Alex Ferguson has insisted Rio Ferdinand remains a key figure in his Manchester United plans after backing down in his row with the defender over his "embarrassing" refusal to wear an anti-racism T-shirt prior to the game against Stoke City.
Ferdinand, who will be rested for tonight's Champions League Group H tie against SC Braga in order to be fit for Sunday's Premier League trip to Chelsea, angered Ferguson with his decision not to wear a 'Kick It Out' T-shirt at the weekend, 24 hours after the United manager had claimed all of his players would take part in the initiative.
Ferdinand's contract runs out in June and it was thought that defying his manager on Saturday, combined with his inconsistent form and patchy fitness record, could have led to his departure in the summer, but the United manager was in conciliatory mood ahead of tonight's match at Old Trafford.
"I think Rio can play for two or three more years," Ferguson said. "He is not as quick as he was but that is not a big issue for me. His experience is important and there is no reason he can't stay on. I didn't even realise his contract was up."
Despite admitting that the issue with Ferdinand has been resolved -- the player is understood to have escaped a club fine -- Ferguson claims that the situation could have been avoided with better communication between the two men.
"The issue is pretty simple," Ferguson said. "I spoke to Rio, but I think there was a communication problem. I think he felt I should have spoken to him on Friday, but I didn't anticipate there would be any problem in the dressing-room as far as the T-shirt was concerned.
"Obviously, as the manager of the club, when you lay down policy you don't want to see it being ignored and that's where my anger came from on Saturday. But we have resolved the problem, there's no ongoing problems and we move on."
With Ferdinand one of several Premier League players who shunned the 'Kick It Out' T-shirts at the weekend, the anti-racism campaign appears to have become splintered in the wake of recent high-profile cases, most notably that involving Ferdinand's brother Anton, and Chelsea's John Terry.
But, while admitting to finding Ferdinand's stance "compelling," Ferguson, himself a former union shop steward, urged those players aggrieved by the anti-racism campaign to consider their actions and focus on a more united front.
"I think you are always stronger as a union, there's more solidarity than as a single unit," Ferguson said. "I have listened to the conviction of Rio and I think it is quite compelling. I can understand his stance.
"But the advice I would give is that he should take it up with the proper authorities and make his voice heard. It is only through that that people will listen. I always think the union is stronger than any individual and it is important he airs his grievances to the right people, through the PFA or the FA."
Ferdinand's long-term future at Old Trafford has been clouded by his stand-off with Ferguson, however. With several high-profile players leaving United following clashes with Ferguson -- namely Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy and David Beckham -- Ferdinand having just six months left on his contract has prompted suggestions that his time at the club could be approaching an end.
But while conceding Ferdinand will not play against Braga, Ferguson insisted that his future beyond next summer has not yet been addressed.
"We have a game on Sunday at Chelsea, I think that's a big one for us, and we will leave two of the older players out (tonight) such Rio and Patrice Evra," he said.
"But on the contract, we have always adopted that policy of offering one-year contracts and also at 34 (next month), I think Rio can play for two or three years.
"He is not as quick as he was but that is not a big issue for me. His experience is important and there is no reason he can't stay on. I didn't even realise his contract was up." (© Daily Telegraph, London)