Uneasy truce: Has row damaged Rio's relationship with Fergie for good
21:45 GMT, 21 October 2012
Sir Alex Ferguson may just have woken up on Sunday morning and wondered briefly whether he had lost the moral high ground in his rather too public disagreement with Rio Ferdinand.
In deciding not to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt before Saturday’s Barclays Premier League game against Stoke City, Ferdinand was merely exercising a right to individual choice that, in other areas of life, Ferguson might have quite admired.
This, however, may not be the way Ferguson will see this episode in the long term. The Manchester United manager has always believed that authority matters, particularly his own. It is a key part of the order of things at Old Trafford.
In the red: Rio Ferdinand did not wear the Kick It Out t-shirt before Manchester United played Stoke
We're in: Anderson and Wayne Rooney (right) wore the anti-racism t-shirts during the warm-up
In his eyes, Ferdinand has disobeyed
him and, even worse, undermined him. It remains to be seen whether the
ramifications of that are harmful not only to United’s season but also
to the central defender’s future prospects at the club.
In short the issue is this: Ferguson
thinks he has been made to look stupid while Ferdinand feels he doesn’t
need to be told, at the age of almost 34, how he should express his
views on a subject that — as a product of a South London housing estate —
he feels he knows rather more about than most football managers.
As one source close to Ferdinand said
over the weekend: ‘Nobody will tell Rio what to do on things like this.
He will not compromise his beliefs. If that affects the way people in
football view him then so be it.’
There was a conversation between
Ferguson and Ferdinand on Sunday morning at United’s Carrington training
ground. The two men have had these meetings before, back in the day
when Ferguson had concerns over his player’s lifestyle and commitments
away from the field.
On this occasion, though, the
exchange was calmer. Ferguson said he objected to the fact that he had
been given no warning of Ferdinand’s intentions on Saturday afternoon.
Ferdinand is understood to have accepted this point. Both men will now
endeavour to move on and both will indeed hope they can.
Disappointed: Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at Ferdinand, saying he had embarrassed the club
Ferdinand wants to extend his time at
United by another year at least. Ferguson’s recurring defensive injury
list means the former England centre back’s value to his manager will
They have clashed before this year,
though. Ferdinand, for example, believes Ferguson’s suggestions last
spring that he was unable to play three games in a week made England
manager Roy Hodgson’s decision to leave him out of the Euro 2012 squad a
lot easier than it might otherwise have been.
Ferdinand was livid at the time and
he hasn’t completely forgotten. With Ferguson, too, the residue from
disagreements and fall-outs can linger. It is this that represents the
With less than a season left on his
United contract, Ferdinand began this campaign hoping to sign a one-year
extension, most probably in the new year. There have been no official
talks but United have privately indicated their willingness.
The player is aware of his options elsewhere, though, particularly in America, China and the Middle East.
If the issue that blew up in the wake
of Ferguson’s comments at his Friday morning press conference does lead
to a permanent fissure in the relationship then Ferdinand will not lose
too much sleep worrying about what the future holds.
Certainly there will be no
fundamental climbdown. Though United’s policy of wearing Kick It Out
T-shirts only for home games means they will avoid another potentially
explosive incident when they visit John Terry’s Chelsea next Sunday,
Ferdinand’s views remain unchanged.
Prior to Friday, Ferdinand and
brother Anton already felt uneasy about the Kick It Out group. In
particular they feel they have little in common with the chairman, Lord
Ouseley, a man who gave evidence in support of the FA in a case against
Following suit: Rio's brother, the QPR defender, Anton Ferdinand also warmed up without the shirt
Having endorsed a Twitter user who
called Ashley Cole a ‘Choc-ice’, Ferdinand was found guilty of improper
conduct by the FA and fined 45,000 after Ouseley told the hearing the
phrase was, in his view, offensive.
Having spent most of Friday
considering their options, the Ferdinand brothers finally decided not to
wear the T-shirts when they were made aware of comments given to the
BBC by Ouseley late in the afternoon.
‘I have no intention of speaking for
black footballers who have lots of money and power,’ said Ouseley. ‘They
would have much more power if they organised themselves.’
It was this comment that the
Ferdinands took to be implied criticism and, as such, convinced them
that their association with Ouseley’s group was over.
Within the game, Rio Ferdinand is
liked and admired by the majority of black players. He is a role model
of sorts and it is understood he has received many text messages of
support from within the playing community since Saturday afternoon.
At Loftus Road on Sunday, seven of
the players who took part in Everton’s game at Queens Park Rangers did
not wear Kick it Out T-shirts. Over the course of a football weekend,
the number of abstainers has proved to be significant.
Against that background, it would appear unlikely that Ferguson will fine Ferdinand, as appeared likely on Saturday evening.
The United manager rarely backs down
over anything. On this occasion, though, it may be in everyone’s
interests — including his own — if he did.