Rio/Fergie row: United manager shows rare glimpse of weakness


Rio Ferdinand chose not to wear the KIO t-shirt.

In the tone that an underworld criminal might refer to an enemy, ‘We’ll deal with it, don’t you worry’, were the words Sir Alex Ferguson used when referring to Rio Ferdinand, and his latest cause of controversy.

The irate manager has opened a debate on whether his comments were just or not, on a weekend when other Premier League managers supported their players who opted against promoting the Kick It Out campaign.

Throughout his career at Old Trafford, Ferguson has been known for his man-management – the ability to deal with high profile players and the determination not to let any player become bigger than the club. His attitude has not come without trouble in the past.

Stories of boots being thrown around the Manchester changing rooms have been well published. Ruud van Nistelrooy left United soon after a training ground row with Ronaldo, and Roy Keane was shown the door following his criticism of younger players at the club.

On the whole though, players who play for United know the score, and they know the manager is not to be disrespected.

So how should, or more importantly, how will Sir Alex Ferguson react to this latest tension around the club?

Rio Ferdinand, one of a number of players who refused to support the Kick It Out campaign this weekend, is perhaps closer to the issue than anyone else. After all, it was his younger brother, Anton, who was victim of racial abuse from John Terry twelve months ago; Terry, who was given a minimal punishment of a four-game ban this week.

With recent events in Serbia, with Danny Rose experiencing racial abuse when playing for England U21’s, and the cases of Patrice Evra and Anton Ferdninand over the last year, fears that this stain on the game is not completely abolished have been heavily sparked.

So Rio’s view, along with players like Jason Roberts and Jolean Lescott, is clear. He does not feel the Kick It Out campaign is doing enough to abolish racism in football. An opinion entitled to him.

The problem the defender faces is that Ferguson made it clear to Friday’s press that all players would be wearing the campaign’s T-shirts. Either a break-down in communication between manager and player has occurred, or Ferdinand simply stood by his views and ignored Ferguson. Either way, it has left Sir Alex red-faced and Ferdinand no doubt facing disciplinary action, formal or not.

If this wasn’t enough for the English defender, then a shaky performance in United’s defence would not have helped his situation. The 33-year-old was at fault for Stoke’s second goal in Saturday’s 4-2 win, when he let midfielder Michael Kightly ease through the centre of Manchester United’s defence.

As well as this, Rio’s contract expires at the end of this season; do not expect renewal talks to be imminent.