Ferguson calls for Ferdinand to show loyalty

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday increased the pressure on Rio Ferdinand to sign his new contract in time for the FA Cup final against Arsenal and told his £30m defender that Manchester United's supporters will want to know he is committed to the club.

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday increased the pressure on Rio Ferdinand to sign his new contract in time for the FA Cup final against Arsenal and told his £30m defender that Manchester United's supporters will want to know he is committed to the club.

The controversy over Ferdinand's new contract has threatened to over-shadow the 26-year-old defender's impressive season. The deal, understood to be around £100,000 a week, would make him the best-paid player in the club's history and there is growing frustration at his unwillingness to commit. Ferguson said that the player owed a debt of "loyalty".

"We have shown great faith in these players when we sign them and we have shown great faith and loyalty in Rio and we would like some of that returned," Ferguson said.

Chelsea's chief executive Peter Kenyon last week said that he had given personal guarantees to his former club that Chelsea had no intention of signing Ferdinand, but there is still serious cause for disquiet at United. He has only two seasons left on his existing deal before he could leave Old Trafford for free.

Ferguson has not indicated he is worried that Ferdinand might leave, but he did say yesterday that the improved contract was a "great offer", adding: "I wish I was offered it."

"They say his agent is out of the country and that seems to be the stumbling block at the moment. Rio really needs to make a decision on that one way or another because we are going into a final and it is important to get that matter resolved. We need a decision now for the supporters. We have 35,000 going to Cardiff who want to know that Rio is committed to the club. I don't know [if it has affected his form]. He's that phlegmatic and laid back I don't think anything would affect him."

While Ferguson's support for Ferdinand during his nine-month ban for missing a drugs test last season was unconditional, he will find that support rather less easy to provide if the player is prepared to raise the stakes over wages.

Ferdinand's agent is Pini Zahavi who, despite his friendship with Ferguson, has found his influence at Old Trafford reduced since Kenyon left for Chelsea.

Ferdinand last night restated his claim that he wanted to stay.

"I want to stay at Manchester United and I have said that from the beginning," he said.

Ferguson, who predicted that Chelsea would not seal the title against Bolton today, said that he believed Gabriel Heinze would recover in time to face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on 21 May. He added that Louis Saha had been "pencilled in" to face West Bromwich Albion next week.

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