It is looking increasingly unlikely that John Terry and Rio Ferdinand can be paired at the centre of England's defence at this summer's European Championships after it emerged that a number of Manchester United players would have declined to shake the Chelsea captain's hand had he been fit for today's game at Stamford Bridge.
The relationship between the pair has been called into question since Terry was accused of making a racist remark to Ferdinand's younger brother Anton in October, which he strongly denies. Ferdinand was left out of the squad for two England games in November, lacking match fitness. He is set to play at Chelsea but confrontation with Terry will be avoided as the Blues defender has a knee injury.
Asked about that potential meeting on BBC's Football Focus yesterday, Ferdinand said dismissively of Terry, who was this week stripped of the England captaincy: "I couldn't care less if he played or not."
Sir Alex Ferguson had earlier suggested that if it came to a handshake, Ferdinand "maybe has to rise above that", but it is understood that several other United players would have ignored Terry, as Manchester City's Wayne Bridge did two years ago.
Ferdinand has appeared in only three of the last 18 England games, but his experience is a strong suit and potential replacements such as Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka have not been able to make the position their own.
Ferdinand said of his brother: "We have grown up together, I have looked after him when we were kids. If something is going to affect him and hurt him, I am always there as a shoulder to lean on. In moments like this, when things are so public and you can't really say anything, it can be frustrating. For my family it has been tough.
"At the end of the day, my brother has not brought any accusations to anyone. He is not the accused. But he has had to sit there and take abuse from some small-minded people, which has been very disappointing."
As a prominent anti-racism campaigner, Ferdinand said he was disappointed by incidents such as the one between Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra. "I almost feel I've been fooled a little bit over the years," he said. "I thought that era was gone. It seems like it was just put to one side for a while."