Testimonial announcement hints at Manchester United stay for Rio Ferdinand

Defender is out of contract in the summer

The clearest indication yet that Rio Ferdinand will be staying at Manchester United next season has come from a confirmation that the defender has been given a testimonial by the Old Trafford outfit.

Ferdinand joined United for £29.1million from Leeds in 2002, meaning he completed a decade of service last summer.

With his contract due to expire this year, there had been plenty of speculation about whether Ferdinand would stay, or if he might be tempted to accept one of the lucrative offers he has received to play in the Far East or Major League Soccer.

So far, there has been no confirmation either way.

However, in acknowledging Ferdinand is presently putting plans in place for a testimonial game, which currently has no date, or opponent but will take place at the start of next season, it seems the Londoner is ready to commit himself to United for another year.

"I have spoken to Rio," said Ferguson.

"I would imagine the best thing for him would be to stay but at this moment in time he is more concerned about getting an opponent for his testimonial game.

"But we want him to stay and I am sure his representatives will be talking about that with David (Gill)."

Of particular significance could be whether Ferdinand resumes his international career.

After being selected for the recent World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro, Ferdinand withdrew in controversial circumstances, citing an "intricate and pre-planned" training programme.

That move, and his subsequent decision to fly to Doha to commentate on the first of those World Cup qualifiers for Al Jazeera, led to Ferdinand being abused by England fans during the San Marino game, which is still the subject of a FIFA investigation.

Yet England boss Roy Hodgson must realise his central defensive options are no more extensive than they were prior to Ferdinand being called up in the first place.

Phil Jagielka missed Everton's defeat at Sunderland with an ankle injury, Joleon Lescott was pressed into service as an emergency striker as Manchester City slid to defeat at Tottenham, when Steven Caulker remained on the bench throughout.

At Ferdinand's own club, neither Chris Smalling nor Phil Jones - who has impressed in a variety of positions recently - is challenging to displace their vastly experienced team-mate on a regular basis.

So, there would appear to be a ring of truth about speculation that Hodgson intends to speak with Ferdinand to establish whether his training regime would allow a call-up for the post-season friendlies against Republic of Ireland on May 29 and Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on June 2.

PA

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