Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Ferguson sure Rio can handle any flak

Controversy surrounded Rio Ferdinand's England withdrawal and subsequent trip to Qatar
Controversy surrounded Rio Ferdinand's England withdrawal and subsequent trip to Qatar

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident Rio Ferdinand will not be affected by any abuse from the stands as a result of his England withdrawal.

Anti-racism campaigners FARE have reported the Football Association to FIFA over the behaviour of England's fans in San Marino last Friday. Specifically, it was felt by FARE that the 'bonfire' song, adapted to include the names of Ferdinand and his brother Anton, warranted further attention from the game's authorities.

Yet United manager Ferguson feel the 34-year-old is strong enough to cope, and he said: "If there is criticism out there I don't think it will bother him."

The FA have so far failed to unearth any evidence of the song being sung, while not challenging that it happened, and have repeated their desire to stamp racism out of the game.

That may not prevent Ferdinand being targeted on Manchester United duty though, given the controversy that surrounded his England withdrawal and subsequent trip to Qatar to commentate on the World Cup qualifier.

Ferguson added: "In modern society there is always a venting of spleen against someone who displeases them at any particular moment in time. It will blow over quite quickly.

"Most people realise Rio's international career had been in doubt for a while anyway. He hadn't been picked for a few games."

In a face-to-face meeting with Roy Hodgson prior to his withdrawal, Ferdinand cited an "intricate and pre-planned" training programme as the reason why he could not answer England's call. It is evidently as meticulous as Ferdinand says.

"The way our physio and sports science departments had been handling him has been correct," said Ferguson. "That has allowed him to have one of his best seasons. That is why Roy has picked him. But there is a way we treat Rio in terms of getting him ready for big matches.

"The programme we have got for him is detailed in the sense of the games he plays in and the type of training he does in the build-up to games. We don't play him in every game, as everyone knows. We try to have him ready for the games that really matter."

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