Fergie: Rio will have final say
Rio Ferdinand will get the final say over his England call-up - but Sir Alex Ferguson has concerns about the defender's international return.
Ferdinand won the last of his 81 caps in June 2011 but was yesterday drafted into Roy Hodgson's squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro.
It brought to an end an uncomfortable stand-off between Hodgson and Ferdinand, who never believed that "football reasons" were behind his omission from England's Euro 2012 squad.
Given the rancour that accompanied the racism row between Ferdinand's brother Anton and John Terry, and the number of times Hodgson indicated that he had "moved on" from the 34-year-old, it would be bizarre in the extreme if the defender did not report for duty on Monday evening given he has repeatedly insisted he would be ready in an instant should the call ever come again.
Yet it is difficult to see how 10 days away from United's Carrington training complex fits in with Ferguson's view of how Ferdinand should be managing his long-standing back complaint.
"It doesn't rest with me, it rests with Rio," said Ferguson.
"The issue is not the amount of games, the issue is his whole preparation for football.
"It involves treatment, it involves rest, it involves heavy days followed by some light days followed by some easy days.
"Our medical staff and fitness lads have done a great job with him.
"Because he hasn't been playing when the international breaks have come along we have detailed all the things he has to do, therefore it is a disruption to his normal preparation."
It was something of a surprise when Ferguson discovered Hodgson wanted to call him up, even though an injury to Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott's lack of regular match action at Manchester City drastically reduced England's options.
With his contract due to expire at the end of the season, Ferdinand's return to the international stage could even jeopardise his Old Trafford future.
Certainly Ferguson intends to speak with the former West Ham man about the issue, after he has had a chat with United's medical staff.
"I was quite surprised when Roy Hodgson phoned me to say what he had done and I did say to him that I will talk to Rio," he said.
"Of course it is a concern and I will need to speak to our doctor because we prepare Rio in certain ways.
"We have given him the treatments he needs for the various complaints he has in terms of his back and groin. So far it's worked very well. Rio has been absolutely magnificent for us.
"He has to make sure he's going to be okay in terms of the number of games he plays because what he is enjoying is how we plan for him.
"That has allowed him to reach his best performance level for quite a few years."
And that is without any lingering resentment Ferdinand feels for the way he has been treated.
"I need to speak to Rio about that," said Ferguson.
"I don't know what his attitude will be. I have not had enough time to do that."
It is unlikely Ferdinand will be required for next Friday's encounter with San Marino.
What he will be needed for is the meeting with Montenegro in Podgorica on March 26, which is crucial to England's hopes of sealing automatic World Cup qualification.
Ferguson's anxiety might be heightened by the knowledge United face two games in 48 hours immediately after the international break given their FA Cup replay with Chelsea has had to be squeezed into a congested fixture calendar due to the Blues' Europa League commitments.
Their immediate aim is to ensure that match remains another step towards a likely domestic double by confirming obvious superiority against relegation-threatened Reading at Old Trafford tomorrow.
The Red Devils will approach their task without long-term casualty Paul Scholes, plus Phil Jones, who has been out for four weeks with an ankle injury, and Nani, whose hamstring injury is not as bad as Ferguson initially feared.
"Nani came off against Chelsea last week and we thought it could have been another bad hamstring injury," said Ferguson.
"Thankfully it is not serious but it will keep him out for a couple of weeks."