Fergie defends under-fire Fab

Sir Alex Ferguson has defended Fabio Capello over the Steven Gerrard saga and branded criticism of the England coach as "over the top".

England were beaten 2-1 by France at Wembley on Wednesday night, with Peter Crouch netting a late consolation following earlier efforts from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena.

But Ferguson believes the defeat is understandable given so many senior players were missing and Capello was blooding young players in the game.

"I think the criticism of Capello is over the top," the Manchester United boss said. "If Fabio had played all his strong hitters he would probably have got a better result.

"But John Terry and Ashley Cole had withdrawn, while Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney weren’t fit, so he had a lot of players missing."

Liverpool are seeking £500,000 compensation from the FA after Gerrard suffered a hamstring injury in the game after playing beyond the agreed hour against France.

Rio Ferdinand also picked up a groin injury and will not be playing against Rangers in the Champions League on Wednesday, although he played 90 minutes against Wigan, but Ferguson has no complaint against Capello.

He added: "Rio has a groin injury now and we won’t be taking him up to Glasgow to face Rangers in the Champions League on Wednesday, I wouldn’t think. But I had no arrangement with England about how long my players would play.

"I am not surprised other clubs might have spoken about that as it has happened in the past. I’ve done it with Sven-Goran Eriksson and Terry Venables when they were in charge.

"I spoke to them and outlined the situation with certain players, particularly when you get to March and have European ties coming up.

"The present day national boss needs that flexibility to help clubs, because we need to help each other.

"I’ve no complaints about what happened to Rio because you accept injuries are part of the game. I don’t know the situation with Liverpool and how long was agreed that he would play, but you can’t be precise in these games.

"Don’t forget, England were losing and now they are getting hammered in the media for a friendly defeat.

"People are getting paranoid about friendly matches when Capello has quite a few young players in there – Gibbs, Henderson, Carroll and Ben Foster, playing his first game for a long time. It’s over the top."