Ferguson and Ferdinand agree to differ in T-shirt row
Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to offer Rio Ferdinand a one-year contract extension after resolving his communication breakdown with the Manchester United defender.
Ferguson was furious with Ferdinand on Saturday when the 33-year-old defied his order to wear a T-shirt backing the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign.
However, the pair held clear-the-air talks at United’s Carrington training HQ on Sunday, during which Ferdinand put forward a “compelling argument” for why he adopted his solo stance.
As a former shop steward, Ferguson remains committed to the idea of collective action, and also did not take kindly to being undermined in such a public way.
However, with their respective positions aired, the United manager is more than happy to concentrate on Ferdinand’s attributes on the field.
“Rio can play for two or three years,” said Ferguson. “He has different issues from Paul [Scholes] or Ryan [Giggs] in terms of injuries over the last couple of years.
“He is not as quick as he was but that is not a big problem because his experience is important. He is still a great footballer and, even at 33, there is no reason why he can’t stay on.
“We have always adopted that policy of offering one-year contracts, so we will see as the season progresses. I didn’t even realise his contract was up. You are making me panic.”
It was not panic that made Ferguson react the way he did on Saturday.
The central component of his entire managerial philosophy is that his word is law. At 70, it is hardly a stance that is going to change.
And, rather than back down from their respective positions, it seems the Carrington summit resulted in an amicable agreement to disagree, with Ferguson insisting any issues Ferdinand has over the FA’s handling of John Terry’s racism case with brother Anton should be taken up with the governing body directly.
“I spoke to Rio,” said Ferguson. “The issue is pretty simple. There was a communication problem. He felt I should have spoken to him on Friday and I didn’t anticipate there would be any problem in the dressing room as far as the T-shirt was concerned.
“I have listened to the conviction of Rio and I think it is quite compelling. I can understand his stance. But I think you are always stronger as a union. There’s more solidarity than as a single unit.
“The advice I would give is that he should take it up with the proper authorities. It is only through that he will make his voice heard. Obviously, as the manager of the club, when you lay down policy you don’t want to see it being ignored. That’s where my anger came on Saturday. But we have resolved the situation, there are no lingering problems and we move on. That is the end of the matter.”
Anxious that his selection should not be viewed as any kind of punishment, Ferguson broke with tradition by confirming Ferdinand and skipper Patrice Evra would not be in his starting line-up for tonight’s Champions League encounter with Braga at Old Trafford. Instead the pair are set to be replaced by Scott Wootton and Alex Buttner as Ferguson schemes for the tough domestic challenges that await. “Tomorrow, so your false teeth don’t fall out, I am not playing Rio,” he said. “We have a game at Chelsea on Sunday, which is a big one for us, so we will leave two of the older players, Rio and Patrice Evra, out tomorrow.”
Ferguson is preparing to launch a personal revolution by switching to a diamond formation. Throughout his near 40-years in management, the Scot has remained wedded to his ideal of playing with wide men. As it is part of United’s tradition as well, the pair appeared to be growing old together. However, at the age of 70, Ferguson has had a radical rethink.
The summer arrival of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, plus Tom Cleverley’s emergence as a player of international calibre triggered Ferguson into an experiment.
From the Capital One Cup, through the Champions League and into domestic league action, the diamond has sparkled and brought success.
With Kagawa and Cleverley both set to face Braga tomorrow, the diamond could be twinkling again at Old Trafford.
And Ferguson is considering changing the habit of a lifetime by making it permanent.
“If it turns out we play the diamond consistently it would be revolutionary because it is going against our history,” said Ferguson. “But the level of the game in England and Europe now is so high that making yourself unpredictable is going to be a strength.
“Teams will have to think if we are going to use two out wide or the diamond because we have players capable of doing both things. Kagawa and Cleverley can play really well in the type of game that a diamond offers, whilst in Nani, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia we have very good wide players.”
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