Updated: Wednesday, 19th June 2019 @ 12:38pm

Rio can do what he wants: Alex Ferguson backs Ferdinand's Qatar trip as Manchester United face Sunderland

Rio can do what he wants: Alex Ferguson backs Ferdinand's Qatar trip as Manchester United face Sunderland

By Chris Bailey

Sir Alex Ferguson insists he had no problem with Rio Ferdinand jetting off to Qatar to appear as a pundit during Manchester United’s international break.

The Red Devils are back in Premier League action after a two-week lay-off on Saturday as they travel to the Stadium of Light to face relegation-battlers Sunderland.

And in his pre-match press conference, Ferguson revealed players not on international duty had his blessing to take the weekend off and do whatever they choose.

“To be honest it doesn't bother me one bit,” said the Scot. “They had the weekend off and players are entitled to do what they want.

“They trained all last week and we gave them Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. He has his own choice with these things.”

But Ferdinand has not fared so well in the eyes of England fans, with many unhappy he turned down Roy Hodgson’s international call-up.

The 34-year-old met the Three Lions boss to clear the air and fully detail the specifics of his fitness programme – which Ferguson approved.

“He did the right thing to go down and see Roy,” he added. “I encouraged him to go down and do it face to face.

“He needed to explain how we handle him now and how he prepares for games. I think Roy appreciated that.”

The trip to Sunderland is United’s first time back since their fateful last-day defeat in the title race.

Ferguson’s men looked like clinching the title with a win – only for Sergio Aguero’s last-second goal for Manchester City against Queens Park Rangers to snatch it away.

Sunderland fans jeered the Red Devils as they learned of the agonising end to the title race, but Ferguson – who admits it rubbed salt into the wounds – holds no grudges.

"It was disappointing. It’s hard to take these things, there’s no question about that,” he said.

“The way it all panned out, we thought we’d won it for about 20 seconds and it was snatched away from us but we’ve done it many times ourselves and there’s no bitterness from me. 

“It happens, we move on – we’ve dusted ourselves down and made a real good challenge of the league this year. 

“The concentration and commitment and team spirit has been excellent. So in that respect, we’ve answered the only way we can.”

Image courtesy of BBC Sport, via YouTube, with thanks.

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