Ferguson and Rio hold crisis talks on race row

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson moved to avoid a breakdown in his relationship with Rio Ferdinand yesterday by holding talks in which he accepted that the defender will not apologise for refusing to wear a Kick It Out T-shirt.

The two met after Ferdinand had arrived for a training session yesterday, when the United manager explained that it was the lack of advance notice from the player of his intention to boycott the anti-racism campaign – in contravention of Ferguson's orders – which had angered him. The 33-year-old, above, has apologised to Ferguson for that but has not voiced any contrition for the act itself.

Ferdinand will be severely indignant if he finds himself fined two weeks' wages – £220,000 – by Ferguson when plenty of Premier League players have been given freedom of choice in the matter by their managers.

A fine seems unlikely and Ferguson would be wise not to impose one, having boxed himself into a corner over the issue by first criticising Reading's Jason Roberts for his boycott and then declaring, after Saturday's home game with Stoke City, that Ferdinand's actions were "embarrassing". Visibly angry, Ferguson said that the player would be "dealt with".

Ferdinand's boycott was not staged lightly and he was undecided throughout Friday about the merits of rejecting a T-shirt. It is understood that his boycott was substantially motivated by the personal indignation he felt about comments made by the chairman of Kick It Out, Lord Ouseley, on Friday afternoon, six hours after Ferguson had stated that all his players would wear the T-shirts. Lord Ouseley told the BBC that he had "no intention of speaking for black footballers who are very wealthy and earning a lot of money" who "have to be organised and speak for themselves".

Despite the off-the-field issues, there was no sign of United getting distracted from the all-important business of securing three points at home to Stoke, despite falling behind to an early Wayne Rooney own goal.

The England striker soon made amends with an equaliser before Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck gave United the advantage. Michael Kightly's solo strike made for a tense finish before Rooney finished the match with his second.

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