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.”