x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sir Alex Ferguson plays down spat with Ferdinand over anti-racism shirt

The Manchester United manager says Rio Ferdinand will not face Braga in the Champions League to save him for 'the big one' at Chelsea.

Rio Ferdinand, left, refused to be part of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign angering his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, right.
Rio Ferdinand, left, refused to be part of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign angering his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, right.

MANCHESTER // Sir Alex Ferguson and Rio Ferdinand have repaired their relationship in clear-the-air talks after the Manchester United manager condemned the defender for "embarrassing" him on Saturday.

Ferdinand angered the Scot by refusing to wear a T-shirt promoting the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign before Saturday's 4-2 win over Stoke but Ferguson described it as "a communication problem" and suggested he is willing to extend Ferdinand's contract.

The 33-year-old's brother, Anton, was racially abused by the Chelsea captain John Terry a year ago, and several high-profile black players boycotted the Kick It Out campaign as a protest at the lack of support they have received.

But Ferguson, who had insisted all his players would wear the T-shirt, said: "The issue is pretty simple. I spoke to Rio. I think there was a communication problem.

"I think he felt I should have spoken to him on Friday. I didn't anticipate there would be any problem in the dressing room as far as the T-shirt was concerned.

"My advice to him is that I always think the union is stronger than an individual, and it is important he airs his grievances to the right people, through the PFA or the FA. It has been a communication problem rather than anything else.

"Obviously as the manager of the club when you lay down policy you don't want to see it being ignored and that's where my anger came [from] on Saturday. We have resolved the problem and that is the end of the matter."

Ferdinand's current deal expires in the summer but, although injuries have interrupted his career, Ferguson believes it could continue at Old Trafford.

"I think Rio can play for two or three years," he said. "He is not as quick as he was but that is not a big issue for me. His experience is important and there is no reason he can't stay on for another year. I didn't even realise his contract was up."

However, he will not play in tonight's Champions League clash against Braga. United have made a 100 per cent start to their European campaign but travel to face the Premier League leaders Chelsea on Sunday, a game Ferguson is prioritising.

"There will be two main changes," Ferguson said. "We have a game on Sunday at Chelsea, I think that's a big one for us, and we will leave two of the older players out, Rio and Patrice Evra."

Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa could be recalled in the midfield but, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones still two or three weeks away from full fitness, Ferguson must decide whether to move the midfielder Michael Carrick into defence or to give the youngster Scott Wootton his first Champions League start against the Portuguese team.

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