Mar 19, 2013, 7:22 PM EDT
‘Sir Alex knows what’s best for me. Sir Alex knows what’s best for me. Sir Alex knows what’s best for me’.
This has to be Rio Ferdinand’s sanity-maintaining mantra following his decision to pull out of England’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.
It wasn’t but one month ago that the United defender admitted that he would “pack my bag and go” if recalled by Roy Hodgson to play for England. So when that call finally came last Thursday, Ferdinand went for it despite the fact that it raised the possibility of the center-back playing four games in 11 days for England and Manchester United.
Cue Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Scot cast doubt on the call up on Friday when he mentioned Ferdinand’s training and medical program that the United training staff had implemented for the player’s reoccurring back injury. “The issue is not that [the amount of games], the issue is his whole preparation for football today,” the manager said.
“Because he hasn’t been playing international football when the international breaks have come along we have detailed all the things he has to do: when he trains, when his treatments come along. Therefore it is a disruption to his normal preparation.”
Ferguson’s words prompted Hodgson to contact the United manager – which the Three Lions’ manager should have done before announcing his squad – to discuss how to adhere to the center-back’s treatment program. Hodgson suggested that Ferdinand could be rested for the laugher against San Marino and inserted for the vital clash with Montenegro. But such a plan didn’t fly with the almighty Ferguson who wanted Ferdinand to play in the league game at Sunderland on Saturday and the FA Cup replay with Chelsea the following Monday.
One would think Hodgson would have questioned why Ferguson would require Ferdinand against Martin O’Neill’s struggling squad when United is 15 points clear in the title race, but such a move would have taken at least a bit of backbone, which the England manager simply didn’t have. Instead, Hodgson remained coy and deeply respectful of his meeting with The Knighted-One, saying: “Sir Alex is an important person for me to keep in touch with. But I’m not prepared ever to discuss the content of our conversation. That will remain private between us.”
And so, with the private nature of that conversation buried deep in the vaults of St. George’s Park, Ferdinand’s status remained up in the air. By Sunday, Ferdinand was recovering from his man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 win against Reading (and his Saturday night out at the One Direction concert, obviously a key component to the treatment program) and decided to call Hodgson for a face to face chat. From all accounts the discussion went swimmingly, with Ferdinand saying, “I told Roy that I want to continue to be available for England and I look forward to working with him in the future.”
The idea that Ferdinand was comfortable withdrawing after having been left off Hodgson’s roster for Euro 2012 and each of the ensuing friendlies is a bit perplexing – until you factor in Ferguson’s heavy-handed influence and the fact that the center-back’s contract at United expires this summer. Gulp. If the 34 year old is to get a new deal at Old Trafford – even if it is a Ryan Giggs single season special – then no matter how badly Ferdinand wanted to return to England, he knew he had to choose club over country.
Such is the power of Alex Ferguson and the weight of finances in a footballer’s life.
The next round of international fixtures arrives in May. Whether Ferdinand will be afforded, or, more accurately, allowed the opportunity to play for his country at that time is unclear. But we could probably just ask Ferguson.
- Yahoo! reports: Mourinho to sign 4-year deal with Chelsea, will be unveiled June 2 0
- Anyone else think Bayern Munich is playing dirty? 6
- With PSG willing to match Wayne Rooney’s wages, Manchester United has somebody to bail them out 3
- Looking at the United States’ roster ahead of their Canada rematch 1
- A stadium for New York City FC – tougher than you think 9
- It’s official: Manchester City and the Yankees will own and operate Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team. (35)
- Why MLS was so focused on New York as the 20th market (18)
- Notes from today’s big announcement on MLS, NYCFC the Yankees and the rest (14)
- Gareth Bale set to re-sign with Tottenham – But is it a good deal for the Welshman? (9)
- Possible temporary homes for New York City FC (9)
- Watch LIVE: Sharks-Kings, Game 5
- PHT: Wings push Hawks to brink of elimination
- PHT: Kreider keeps Rangers alive | Highlights
- PBT: Hibbert says Battier's knee to groin intentional
- OlyTalk: Lochte says Phelps will return soon
- CSN: Francona returns to Boston | Legacy?
- Posnanski: Hornets more than a name to Charlotte