Will he or won't he play for England? Well for now, Rio Ferdinand won't. The Manchester United defender informed Roy Hodgson in person on Sunday evening in London that he's withdrawing himself from the England squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro. Here's the statement the 34-year-old defender released earlier today:
"It was important for me to be able to speak with Roy face to face and explain the situation, and one thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever. It is disappointing that I won't be able to play a part in the upcoming games but I told Roy that I want to continue to be available for England and I look forward to working with him in the future."
Here is Hodgson's public response in a statement through the FA:
"I'm disappointed Rio will not be available, but due to the detailed pre-planned training and medical programme he must follow it's not possible. However, I was pleased that Rio called and asked to meet with me. It was important to hear from him personally about the way he must manage his body between games. This is not to say he cannot play back to back games - he can and has proven so. He's out this time due to particular pre-planned details already in place for his programme. I must place on record how I was impressed with his commitment to playing for England and I look forward to hopefully selecting him for squads in the future."
The FA also released this statement on the matter:
"Rio Ferdinand has been forced to withdraw from England's forthcoming fixtures with San Marino and Montenegro. The decision was taken following a meeting in London on Sunday evening with Rio Ferdinand and England Manager Roy Hodgson. At the meeting, Rio confirmed he wants to continue playing for England and to be selected for the summer and autumn fixtures."
Sir Alex Ferguson will certainly be pleased by this. It sounds as if, though, that Rio will be available for England in the future if he is given more notice so that he can alter his training programme. From a United perspective, this is welcoming news as the 34-year-old's form has been tremendous and he'll be needed immediately after the international break ends. On the Saturday afternoon of March 30, the club travels to Sunderland for a Premier League match and just two days later, they'll in London for an afternoon FA Cup quarter-final replay with Chelsea. There's been speculation that Rio will be involved in both of those games. However, it seems more logical that he'd be involved in just one of those ties -- probably the Chelsea one.