Updated: Thursday, 9th April 2020 @ 1:24pm

Friendly fire: Alex Ferguson fans flames over club versus 'interfering' country row

Friendly fire: Alex Ferguson fans flames over club versus 'interfering' country row

By Chris Bailey

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has ripped into the international calendar by claiming friendlies harm the domestic game.

England manager Roy Hodgson recently suggested Premier League clubs encourage their players to drop out of their respective country’s squads.

But a feisty Ferguson hit back – questioning the untimely placement of non-competitive fixtures just as the league season gets underway.

“International football interferes with clubs' ambitions – friendly games do, for a start,” said the Scot.

“Friendly games, for the last decade, have been played the Wednesday before the season starts. Tell me the sense in that.

“I have no issue with competitive games. Players should always be available for those.  I do have an issue with friendlies.”

United will look to pick themselves after the derby defeat to Manchester City by picking up three points at Stoke City on Sunday.

The Potters are in a dismal run at present, winning just once so far in 2013 – against basement club Reading.

However, Ferguson insists Tony Pulis’s men will still offer a fair scrap as the Red Devils look to edge closer to their 20th league title.

"You know you’re always going to get a hard game at Stoke – that will never change,” added Ferguson.

"When you go to Stoke you always have to stand up the mark and we will have to deal with that. But we are going there to win, like we always do.

“It was disappointing to lose the derby but we shouldn’t look at our situation in terms of 12 points.

“We have just seven games left and it is a matter of whittling them away.

"The challenge is there for Stoke as well. I don't think they will go down but, nonetheless, they’re in a precarious situation.

“Down the bottom of that league, you don’t pick up a lot of points. I think they'll get enough to get out.”

Jonny Evans, Ashley Young and Chris Smalling – alongside skipper Nemanja Vidic – are carrying knocks and are unlikely to be available for the tie

Ferguson also confirmed Paul Scholes will be back in training next week – who has been absent from first-team duties since suffering a knee injury in January.

Image courtesy of the Premier League, via Youtube, with thanks.

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