Sport

Ferguson rules out England return for Rio

Neil Johnston

Sir Alex Ferguson does not expect Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to be chosen for England's upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand. (Gallo)

Sir Alex Ferguson does not expect Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand to be chosen for England's upcoming World Cup qualifiers despite John Terry's international retirement.

Chelsea centre-half Terry was given a four-game ban, suspended pending the outcome of any appeal hearing, for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Rio's younger brother, by the Football Association on Thursday during an incident that took place during a match against QPR in October last year.

Former England captain Terry quit England duty on Sunday, saying the FA had made his position with the national side "untenable" after continuing to take action against him after he was found not guilty in July of criminal charges relating to the incident.

Rio Ferdinand has not represented England since June 4 and was upset after being left out of Roy Hodgson's squad for Euro 2012 – a decision the manager insisted was taken for "footballing reasons" amid speculation the United could no longer play alongside Terry because of the incident involving his brother.

However, there is speculation England manager Hodgson could turn to the 81-cap Ferdinand after Terry terminated his international career. United are currently battling a central defensive crisis with Nemanja Vidic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling all nursing long-term injuries.

Rio Ferdinand is one of the few fit defenders at Old Trafford and his return to the international scene for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland next month is unlikely to be celebrated by Ferguson. "If it happens then it is entirely up to Rio," the United manager told a press conference in Manchester on Friday.

'You never know'
"I would not think he would get called up. I think Roy made his decision in the European Championships and I can't see him changing that.

"It will be a difficult one for him to go to Rio now and welcome him back. But you never know."

Ferguson said he had not spoken to Rio Ferdinand, who has captained his country seven times, about whether the player would welcome an England call. "I've not asked him, I don't need to ask him because it's only speculation," he added.

"It is only speculation because of Terry's decision to retire from international football." Rio Ferdinand is set to start when United face Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday. Vidic has undergone surgery after suffering a knee injury which is expected to rule him out for eight weeks.

"We got the bad news earlier in the week [about Vidic] which is a blow," added Ferguson. "We're having a terrible time with defenders at the moment but hopefully we will get through the next three games and then the international break comes along, by which time we could have Chris Smalling back."

Antonio Valencia will also miss the Tottenham match with a foot injury. But Ferguson hinted the Ecuador winger could feature in Tuesday's Champions League game away to Romanian champions Cluj.

United will return to the top of the Premier League table for the first time since April if they overcome Spurs and Chelsea, who start the weekend at the summit, fail to defeat Arsenal.

But Ferguson is expecting a tough game against a Tottenham side who, under manager Andre Villas-Boas – sacked by Chelsea before they won the Champions League last season – are currently eighth in the table. "Our record against them is very good, there's no doubt about that," he said.

"But Tottenham like to play good football and I think it will be a good game. "He [Villas-Boas] wasn't very long at Chelsea.

"But in the time he was there, when he came to our ground, his team tried to play football. He suits Tottenham because they have always had a tradition of playing good football." – AFP

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