Ferguson faith in Rio strength

Bristol City manager Sean O’Driscoll was concerned by his side’s

attitude during the 3-0 defeat to Derby at Pride Park.

The defeat left the Robins rooted to the bottom of the

Championship table – four points adrift of safety – but O’Driscoll

insists his side cannot afford to start feeling sorry for

themselves.

“That is probably as much possession as we have had since I

arrived at the club, yet it’s our worst defeat,” said

O’Driscoll.

“It’s a strange one because we let that disappointment affect

us, which is the first time that has happened.

“Through everything that has happened, we have been really

positive with the players and really positive with what we have

said to them. The first bit of negativity has just come from

them.

“You could see it in them and when they came in at half-time it

was negative, which is disappointing.

“That can’t happen given where we are in the league. We have got

to handle it better.

“The players have got to be positive and view where we are as a

challenge – an opportunity. Because if they don’t, the next few

matches are going to be torture.”

Anti-racism campaigners FARE have reported the Football

Association to FIFA over the behaviour of England’s fans in San

Marino last Friday.

Specifically, it was felt by FARE that the ‘bonfire’ song,

adapted to include the names of Ferdinand and his brother Anton,

warranted further attention from the game’s authorities.

The FA have so far failed to unearth any evidence of the song

being sung, while not challenging that it happened, and have

repeated their desire to stamp racism out of the game.

That may not prevent Ferdinand being targeted on Manchester

United duty though, given the controversy that surrounded his

England withdrawal and subsequent trip to Qatar to commentate on

the World Cup qualifier.

Yet United manager Ferguson feel the 34-year-old is strong

enough to cope.

“If there is criticism out there I don’t think it will bother

him,” said Ferguson.

“In modern society there is always a venting of spleen against

someone who displeases them at any particular moment in time.

“It will blow over quite quickly.

“Most people realise Rio’s international career had been in

doubt for a while anyway. He hadn’t been picked for a few

games.”

In a face-to-face meeting with Roy Hodgson prior to his

withdrawal, Ferdinand cited an “intricate and pre-planned” training

programme as the reason why he could not answer England’s call.

It is evidently as meticulous as Ferdinand says.

“The way our physio and sports science departments had been

handling him has been correct,” said Ferguson.

“That has allowed him to have one of his best seasons. That is

why Roy has picked him.

“But there is a way we treat Rio in terms of getting him ready

for big matches.

“The programme we have got for him is detailed in the sense of

the games he plays in and the type of training he does in the

build-up to games.

“We don’t play him in every game, as everyone knows. We try to

have him ready for the games that really matter.”

The question now is whether Hodgson will call Ferdinand up for

the summer friendlies against Republic of Ireland and Brazil given

the upheaval he experienced this week.

“I couldn’t tell you. I have not spoken to him about it,” said

Ferguson, when asked whether Ferdinand would play for England

again.

“He has had issues with his back obviously. Age catches us all.

There is no question about that. In football you don’t grow old

without penalties.

“Rio has lost that lightning speed he had five or six years ago.

But he has adapted in a different way in the sense of how his game

is.

“You have to adjust to the situation and Rio has done that very

well.”