Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ferdinand must improve, says Ferguson

On a day when it had been made known that a distinctly subdued Sir Alex Ferguson would not be discussing Alan Wiley and his fitness – "I know you're an intelligent boy but don't go too far," he growled when the faintest hint of that topic cropped up – it seemed like a good tactical ploy to suggest that talk of Rio Ferdinand missing out on a World Cup squad place was far-fetched.

But the Manchester United manager, usually so fiercely protective of his players in the face of negative commentaries, offered his first hint of dissatisfaction with his 30-year-old prospective club captain, baldly declaring that there were competitors for his England jersey if his form did not pick up. "Well, he has to get good form," Ferguson declared. "That's an important issue for the [England] coach. I think probably in [England's] defence you've maybe got more options than other positions. He will need to get his form right."



Ferguson's prognosis is pessimistic in the extreme since West Ham's Matthew Upson, who has deputised for Ferdinand more than any other central defender, is not in his class. But that is beside the point. The United manager's words seem designed to shake Ferdinand out of the malaise which has beset him after a period of sustained injury, with the defender featuring in just 20 of the last 42 games for United and four times for England in the last year.



His dire misjudgement of a high ball in Dnepropetrovsk seven days ago, which contributed to the stranded goalkeeper Robert Green being dismissed against Ukraine, was not good enough, Ferguson declared. "With his ability and experience he should be coping with that type of thing," he said. "I'm sure he's taken it on board, the criticism he's had. We all go through little phases where we need to correct our game or make a step, take a step up and I'm sure he'll do that. Games will definitely help, there's no question about that."



Ferdinand is a defender blessed with such time on the ball that his errors can look like casual over-confidence. The misplaced ball against Manchester City which allowed Martin Petrov possession is the most obvious example, although it was Craig Bellamy's subsequent ability to outpace Ferdinand and score which offered more grounds for concern. "I don't know if it's over-confidence. I think there's always been a casual part of Rio's game since he was a kid. It's a casualness that's been an advantage to him at times," Ferguson said. "In his younger days it was a weakness but in his time with us his development and maturity has brought about some consistently outstanding form, for quite a long time."



Ferguson appears to believe that a lack of game time, rather than damage to the body, is the problem for a defender who will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate something against the aerial threat of Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford today. Yet the contradictory messages about Ferdinand's fitness have been puzzling for some time. Ferguson reiterated yesterday a point Ferdinand made in Ukraine that his extra early morning gym sessions on core body work at Carrington, which he put himself through when troubled with his back last season, were now at an end.



Yet in the spring, the player suggested that he would need to maintain the regime for the rest of his career. Pain, he insisted, was something he now had to live with. The manager feels there is a psychological task ahead, too. "I think all players worry about their form – if they're making mistakes and getting criticism, they have to. They wouldn't be human if they didn't."



Ferguson's eye-catching dissection of Capello's likely World Cup squad included the improbable suggestion that Michael Owen will be among the strikers, with Wayne Rooney, Carlton Cole and Peter Crouch the certs. Owen may well get his chance today, with Rooney's calf injury possibly ruling him out until next Sunday's visit to Anfield, according to the manager. Dimitar Berbatov, another slight doubt as his girlfriend Elena Shtilianov gave birth to a daughter, Dea, two days ago, may partner him.



Edwin van der Sar, returning from his hand injury for his first game of the season, was described by Ferguson yesterday as one of the best two goalkeepers in the history of the club, along with Peter Schmeichel, and one whose greater assuredness will lift a defence which has fallen behind five times this season and conceded nine in Premier League and Champions League competition.



Gary Neville took up the task of defending Ferguson for his comments about Wiley on the day that the manager's explanation of his conduct reached the Football Association. "The manager has taken a bit of flak for suggesting that Alan Wiley wasn't fit enough to take charge of the [Sunderland] game [but] I did feel he was taking quite a long time to book players," Neville said. "Managers and players can't win. The fans and the public want honesty, but the FA throw the book at us if we give honest comments. I don't think [Ferguson] was trying to divert attention from the players; he was quite honest that we were not at our best and he didn't say the referee cost us the match."



Ferdinand must find his own case for the defence. "I don't think he's had any spell like this since he joined the club, that's for sure," Ferguson said. "So it's an unusual experience for him. He will get through it, I'm sure of that." On a day when it had been made known that a distinctly subdued Sir Alex Ferguson would not be discussing Alan Wiley and his fitness – "I know you're an intelligent boy but don't go too far," he growled when the faintest hint of that topic cropped up – it seemed like a good tactical ploy to suggest that talk of Rio Ferdinand missing out on a World Cup squad place was far-fetched.



But the Manchester United manager, usually so fiercely protective of his players in the face of negative commentaries, offered his first hint of dissatisfaction with his 30-year-old prospective club captain, baldly declaring that there were competitors for his England jersey if his form did not pick up. "Well, he has to get good form," Ferguson declared. "That's an important issue for the [England] coach. I think probably in [England's] defence you've maybe got more options than other positions. He will need to get his form right."



Ferguson's prognosis is pessimistic in the extreme since West Ham's Matthew Upson, who has deputised for Ferdinand more than any other central defender, is not in his class. But that is beside the point. The United manager's words seem designed to shake Ferdinand out of the malaise which has beset him after a period of sustained injury, with the defender featuring in just 20 of the last 42 games for United and four times for England in the last year.



His dire misjudgement of a high ball in Dnepropetrovsk seven days ago, which contributed to the stranded goalkeeper Robert Green being dismissed against Ukraine, was not good enough, Ferguson declared. "With his ability and experience he should be coping with that type of thing," he said. "I'm sure he's taken it on board, the criticism he's had. We all go through little phases where we need to correct our game or make a step, take a step up and I'm sure he'll do that. Games will definitely help, there's no question about that."



Ferdinand is a defender blessed with such time on the ball that his errors can look like casual over-confidence. The misplaced ball against Manchester City which allowed Martin Petrov possession is the most obvious example, although it was Craig Bellamy's subsequent ability to outpace Ferdinand and score which offered more grounds for concern. "I don't know if it's over-confidence. I think there's always been a casual part of Rio's game since he was a kid. It's a casualness that's been an advantage to him at times," Ferguson said. "In his younger days it was a weakness but in his time with us his development and maturity has brought about some consistently outstanding form, for quite a long time."



Ferguson appears to believe that a lack of game time, rather than damage to the body, is the problem for a defender who will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate something against the aerial threat of Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford today. Yet the contradictory messages about Ferdinand's fitness have been puzzling for some time. Ferguson reiterated yesterday a point Ferdinand made in Ukraine that his extra early morning gym sessions on core body work at Carrington, which he put himself through when troubled with his back last season, were now at an end.



Yet in the spring, the player suggested that he would need to maintain the regime for the rest of his career. Pain, he insisted, was something he now had to live with. The manager feels there is a psychological task ahead, too. "I think all players worry about their form – if they're making mistakes and getting criticism, they have to. They wouldn't be human if they didn't."



Ferguson's eye-catching dissection of Capello's likely World Cup squad included the improbable suggestion that Michael Owen will be among the strikers, with Wayne Rooney, Carlton Cole and Peter Crouch the certs. Owen may well get his chance today, with Rooney's calf injury possibly ruling him out until next Sunday's visit to Anfield, according to the manager. Dimitar Berbatov, another slight doubt as his girlfriend Elena Shtilianov gave birth to a daughter, Dea, two days ago, may partner him.



Edwin van der Sar, returning from his hand injury for his first game of the season, was described by Ferguson yesterday as one of the best two goalkeepers in the history of the club, along with Peter Schmeichel, and one whose greater assuredness will lift a defence which has fallen behind five times this season and conceded nine in Premier League and Champions League competition.



Gary Neville took up the task of defending Ferguson for his comments about Wiley on the day that the manager's explanation of his conduct reached the Football Association. "The manager has taken a bit of flak for suggesting that Alan Wiley wasn't fit enough to take charge of the [Sunderland] game [but] I did feel he was taking quite a long time to book players," Neville said. "Managers and players can't win. The fans and the public want honesty, but the FA throw the book at us if we give honest comments. I don't think [Ferguson] was trying to divert attention from the players; he was quite honest that we were not at our best and he didn't say the referee cost us the match.

"On a day when it had been made known that a distinctly subdued Sir Alex Ferguson would not be discussing Alan Wiley and his fitness – "I know you're an intelligent boy but don't go too far," he growled when the faintest hint of that topic cropped up – it seemed like a good tactical ploy to suggest that talk of Rio Ferdinand missing out on a World Cup squad place was far-fetched.



But the Manchester United manager, usually so fiercely protective of his players in the face of negative commentaries, offered his first hint of dissatisfaction with his 30-year-old prospective club captain, baldly declaring that there were competitors for his England jersey if his form did not pick up. "Well, he has to get good form," Ferguson declared. "That's an important issue for the [England] coach. I think probably in [England's] defence you've maybe got more options than other positions. He will need to get his form right."



Ferguson's prognosis is pessimistic in the extreme since West Ham's Matthew Upson, who has deputised for Ferdinand more than any other central defender, is not in his class. But that is beside the point. The United manager's words seem designed to shake Ferdinand out of the malaise which has beset him after a period of sustained injury, with the defender featuring in just 20 of the last 42 games for United and four times for England in the last year.



His dire misjudgement of a high ball in Dnepropetrovsk seven days ago, which contributed to the stranded goalkeeper Robert Green being dismissed against Ukraine, was not good enough, Ferguson declared. "With his ability and experience he should be coping with that type of thing," he said. "I'm sure he's taken it on board, the criticism he's had. We all go through little phases where we need to correct our game or make a step, take a step up and I'm sure he'll do that. Games will definitely help, there's no question about that."



Ferdinand is a defender blessed with such time on the ball that his errors can look like casual over-confidence. The misplaced ball against Manchester City which allowed Martin Petrov possession is the most obvious example, although it was Craig Bellamy's subsequent ability to outpace Ferdinand and score which offered more grounds for concern. "I don't know if it's over-confidence. I think there's always been a casual part of Rio's game since he was a kid. It's a casualness that's been an advantage to him at times," Ferguson said. "In his younger days it was a weakness but in his time with us his development and maturity has brought about some consistently outstanding form, for quite a long time."



Ferguson appears to believe that a lack of game time, rather than damage to the body, is the problem for a defender who will have plenty of opportunity to demonstrate something against the aerial threat of Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford today. Yet the contradictory messages about Ferdinand's fitness have been puzzling for some time. Ferguson reiterated yesterday a point Ferdinand made in Ukraine that his extra early morning gym sessions on core body work at Carrington, which he put himself through when troubled with his back last season, were now at an end.



Yet in the spring, the player suggested that he would need to maintain the regime for the rest of his career. Pain, he insisted, was something he now had to live with. The manager feels there is a psychological task ahead, too. "I think all players worry about their form – if they're making mistakes and getting criticism, they have to. They wouldn't be human if they didn't."



Ferguson's eye-catching dissection of Capello's likely World Cup squad included the improbable suggestion that Michael Owen will be among the strikers, with Wayne Rooney, Carlton Cole and Peter Crouch the certs. Owen may well get his chance today, with Rooney's calf injury possibly ruling him out until next Sunday's visit to Anfield, according to the manager. Dimitar Berbatov, another slight doubt as his girlfriend Elena Shtilianov gave birth to a daughter, Dea, two days ago, may partner him.



Edwin van der Sar, returning from his hand injury for his first game of the season, was described by Ferguson yesterday as one of the best two goalkeepers in the history of the club, along with Peter Schmeichel, and one whose greater assuredness will lift a defence which has fallen behind five times this season and conceded nine in Premier League and Champions League competition.



Gary Neville took up the task of defending Ferguson for his comments about Wiley on the day that the manager's explanation of his conduct reached the Football Association. "The manager has taken a bit of flak for suggesting that Alan Wiley wasn't fit enough to take charge of the [Sunderland] game [but] I did feel he was taking quite a long time to book players," Neville said. "Managers and players can't win. The fans and the public want honesty, but the FA throw the book at us if we give honest comments. I don't think [Ferguson] was trying to divert attention from the players; he was quite honest that we were not at our best and he didn't say the referee cost us the match."



Ferdinand must find his own case for the defence. "I don't think he's had any spell like this since he joined the club, that's for sure," Ferguson said. "So it's an unusual experience for him. He will get through it, I'm sure of that."



Ferdinand must find his own case for the defence. "I don't think he's had any spell like this since he joined the club, that's for sure," Ferguson said. "So it's an unusual experience for him. He will get through it, I'm sure of that."

Source: Independent