Belfast Telegraph

Ferguson confirms Rio is England bound

Sir Alex Ferguson watched Manchester United tighten their grip on the Premier League title before confirming Rio Ferdinand would join up with England next week.

Ferguson cast doubt on whether Ferdinand would accept Roy Hodgson's call for the double-header against San Marino and Montenegro, expressing concern about disruption to the meticulous way the 34-year-old prepares. But after Ferdinand produced another controlled display in the 1-0 win over Reading, Ferguson confirmed he would report for England duty.

"Rio will be joining up," said United manager Ferguson.

It is believed Hodgson has spoken to the United boss to offer assurances about how the player will be treated, which may include not using him in the San Marino game. Saturday night's evidence showed why England want him involved, though, as Ferdinand sauntered upfield before finding Wayne Rooney - whose 21st-minute effort deflected in off Alex Pearce.

"He broke into the midfield very well," said Ferguson. "He has always been good at that. He doesn't do it as much as he used to, of course, but it paid off for us."

United are clearly concerned about the effect this international break could have on their season considering they travel to Sunderland on March 30 for a lunchtime kick-off, and Chelsea 48 hours later for their FA Cup quarter-final replay.

"We are making arrangements for some players to fly home by privately-hired jet after their matches to make sure they get home as quickly and as smoothly as possible," said Ferguson.

"Tiredness is a great leveller but we'll do our utmost to make sure we field the freshest possible teams. Private planes are going to cost the club an awful lot of money but it is something we feel we have to do."

Ferguson made eight changes and handed Alex Buttner a rare start. The changes did not affect United's winning momentum, even if their performance was, at times, disjointed.

"It has been a great season for us," said Ferguson. "Most of the time we have been playing well and obviously (this game) doesn't reflect the 15 points ahead we are, it is the previous six months."


From Belfast Telegraph