Rio Ferdinand faces the possibility of playing four games in 11 days for England and Manchester United, a factor that Sir Alex Ferguson claimed has to be considered before the defender accepts his recall to Roy Hodgson’s squad.
Ferdinand, 34, is anticipated to answer Hodgson’s call, fitness-permitting, and, despite his various grievances about his treatment by the current manager, still wants to play for England – he said in an interview last month that if selected he would “pack my bag and go straight there.”
However, Ferguson said yesterday that the defender’s fitness and the management of his problems, which have related to his back and groin in the past, had to be closely monitored. England play San Marino in Serravalle on Friday and then Montenegro in Podgorica four days later with Ferdinand only expected to play in the second of the two games.
Nevertheless, Ferdinand could be in a position where he plays against San Marino and Montenegro, Sunderland two weeks today and then the FA Cup sixth-round replay against Chelsea two days after that.
There is understood to be some misgivings on the player’s side that the Football Association did not tell him earlier than Thursday’s squad announcement so that he could re-adjust his treatment schedule. The FA, however, was in an impossible situation and well aware that the news would likely have leaked had it told Ferdinand before Thursday.
Asked about Ferdinand’s inclusion in an England squad for the first time since August 2011, Ferguson said: “I think he has to make sure he is okay in terms of the number of games he has played. That’s a factor. Rio is considering that and we will see what the outcome of that is. Obviously, I was as surprised as anyone when I heard that [he was in the squad].
“I need to speak to our doctor. We prepare Rio in certain ways, he has certain treatments to go through, certain procedures, which have given him fantastic performance levels when he has played for us. We have to consider that. We have been doing it for two years and it works.”
There are also injury concerns over the Tottenham winger Aaron Lennon, although those have receded since he was involved in Spurs’ Europa League second leg game against Internazionale on Thursday night. Hodgson’s medical staff are anticipating some withdrawals, hence the original squad numbering 26 rather than the usual 23.
The England team will train for the first time together on Tuesday, at St George’s Park, before flying to Italy on Thursday and then travelling to Serravalle where they will train on the pitch that night. Leighton Baines, who is expected to play against San Marino to give Ashley Cole a rest before the Montenegro game, said yesterday he was satisfied with the development of his international career.
“It has been a positive 12 months for me,” he said. “I was 25 when I first came into the England squad. Maybe it took me a bit of time to accumulate any experience, or get any kind of caps just because there is such a good player in the same position as me. But I just try and do my own thing. The rest is down to the manager.”