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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Ferguson right to snub Sven?
Sir Alex Ferguson causes Sven a selection headache
David Beckham withdraws from the England squad to face Portugal with a calf strain.

Is Sir Alex Ferguson right to rest his players?


The England captain was taken off towards the end of Tuesday's game against Middlesbrough, although Fergie claims the injury is not too serious.

And suggestions that club comes before country at Old Trafford will have been further fuelled by the inclusion of Paul Scholes in Tuesday's squad.

Despite being ruled out of the England set-up after sustaining an ankle injury in the Champions League, Scholes started the game for United.

Is Fergie fair to dismiss friendlies? Or should country take precedence over club?


This debate is now closed


There is no such thing as a meaningless friendly. Their purpose is to foster a good squad spirit and to give the manager all the options.
Mark Smith, Germany

The new season has been up and running for less than a month. The players have just returned from a World Cup campaign, and here we have a ridiculous "friendly match" to give the lads a chance of selection in the European championships. It's a wonder any of the managers let their players go.
Paul, Australia

There are far too few international friendlies, and club football should always play second fiddle to them - otherwise the England team will never improve for the matches that really count.

I know it's a cliché, but Premiership football really is all about money these days, not genuine competition. You can't buy success on the international stage. Ask yourself this: would you rather see England win the World Cup or your club win the Premiership?
Iain Morris, England

International friendlies are an absolute necessity to building the team, trying new players and giving younger players some experience. It is part and parcel of being an international professional football player and there should be no exceptions.
M., UK


Fergie's behaviour is as cynical as it is unjustified
Jason Le, UK
To think that the England first team can go from 21 June to 12 October without playing together and still perform well as a team is ridiculous.
JC, York, England

Fergie's behaviour is as cynical as it is unjustified. To claim a player is injured and then play him for 80 minutes in a match is just despicable. It doesn't matter how the manager feels about friendlies, feigning injury and then playing a match just after the squad announcement should automatically freeze the player out of the England squad.
Jason Le, UK

I agree with managers who keep their injured players, whether badly or slightly injured, out of pointless friendlies. Why would Alex Ferguson risk losing his better players, and possibly the title, in a meaningless friendly against Portugal?

Sven Goran Eriksson should be using this opportunity to look at new players, and allow his established players to rest for when he needs them most - in European Championship qualifiers. He would be the first to moan if they were injured in the friendlies, and couldn't play when it mattered!
Graham, England


Why would a man of Scottish birth support an English team?
K.W. Ash, England

If Lee bothered to think about it for two minutes he would realise that the gripe is not that players pull out or are injured, it is more to do with being told they are not fit to play, then seeing them play for the club a couple of days later.

As others have already said, it is important for the morale of the England team and to develop tactics. Man Utd seem to think they are above the rules everyone else works to. No change there then.
Andy, England

It's not about the game itself it's about the preparation for the upcoming qualifiers. Players need to be together for training, tactics and morale. Without Beckham and Scholes there, Sven is once again going to have to try new things rather than work on things that need to be changed after the World Cup.
David Brocklebank, England

Why would a man of Scottish birth support an English team?
K.W. Ash, England

It's a stupid idea to have a friendly just as the season has started, what is Sven going to learn by playing Beckham? Other managers have pulled players out but because it's United it's made into a big deal.

MUFC are the wage players for these players, over the years we've had Coppell, Robson, Wilkins and others injured while playing for England. I pay my £350 for my season ticket to see them play at Old Trafford. Not to get injured in a meaningless friendly.
Lee, Manchester

The importance of friendlies is underrated. Even if players don't play the full 90 minutes of competitive football they will at least have trained together for a couple of days. That is what you need to build up a team.

The reason why they struggled so much in World Cup qualifying is precisely because of club over country. Look what they managed with some time together!
Tony Stocks, UK


Why not use this game to see what others like Smith, Dunn etc, can do?
Spud, Scotland

How are we ever expected to win the World Cup or European Championships if our squad is effectively picked by club managers such as Ferguson? It is an absolute disgrace that this happens and the spineless FA won't do anything about it.

Take the alleged injury to Scholes - out of the England squad, but okay to play for his club. If that is not a blatant snub to Sven, then I don't know what is!
Tony, England

I wish people would stop looking at the negative aspects of the withdrawals of Beckham and Scholes from the Portugal game. Their exclusion from the squad is a perfect chance for Sven to give others a chance.

I'm pretty sure Sven knows what Beckham and Scholes can do for England so why not use this game to see what others like Smith, Dunn etc, can do? After all it is only a friendly.

As for Ferguson I don't blame him for playing Scholes against Middlesbrough, there is huge expectation from Man Utd supporters and the media for him to deliver trophies this season and the only way for him to do that is to play the best players disposable to him.

You can rest assured if he doesn't deliver the goods this season he will be hung, drawn and quartered by the media and supporters.
Spud, Scotland

Sadly, this is an argument that could go on forever. Sven's side of the argument would be: "He is English, fit and willing to represent his country. You shouldn't stop him playing. If he is fit, he plays. If he isn't, he doesn't."

Sir Alex, on the other hand, will say: "We are a club that has huge games every week. This is the Premiership and we want to win it. For that, we need our best players. You want him to play in a friendly that means nothing."


Sven's mother makes a comment in the press, and Ferguson takes it out on the England coach
Arnold, UK

Personally, I think Eriksson is right. You can't pick and choose when a player represents his country. It is unfair.
Ben Murden, UK

WHO PAYS THE WAGES?
Mr C, England

Now we know where Roy Keane gets his desire for revenge from. From Alex Ferguson, of course.

Bosnich had a disagreement with Fergie and never played again for United. Stam wrote a book where he admitted to being "tapped" by Ferguson, and Stam was sold to Lazio. And of course, the same happened to Paul McGrath.

So what happens: Sven's mother makes a comment in the press, and Ferguson takes it out on the England coach.

With this attitude from the United manager, don't expect any improvement in the behaviour of Roy Keane.
Arnold, UK


A friendly against Portugal in September isn't going to make England great again
Paul, Manchester

Oh dear! Are people really concerned about what Alex Ferguson thinks and does in relation to England games? I'm not - but then again, all my hopes of major honours rest with MY team - Manchester United.

If people want England to win something when it counts, then surely they should take an interest in what is right for players. The result of a friendly against Portugal in September isn't going to make England great again - come on, the World Cup was a total disappointment.

So let's face it, if all you have to look forward to in a season of football is a friendly against Portugal, and an opportunity to have another go at United, then surely you must ask yourself: (everyone in London, Liverpool Bolton and Leeds), 'Does my opinion count?'

Answer: No, nobody cares, we are not interested. England? Forget it, they won't win a thing! And by the way, yes I am English, yes I am patriotic and yes I support my local team - Manchester United.
Paul, Manchester

As usual, the anti-United brigade have to find fault with the man who has done more to bolster the standards of English football in the last decade than anyone else. Is there no limit to some people's petty envy and resentment? Tell me one club whose contribution to the England team has been more consistent than Manchester United.
David, Peru


I have paid good money to go and watch England play on Saturday
Dave, England

Many people are missing the point a bit. Scholes is not injured otherwise he wouldn't have played last night. For all those English people who complained at England's poor World Cup performances then this is a classic reason why we under perform. If the club managers downgrade England matches to this extent (after all Portugal aren't the Faroe Islands) why should their players take them seriously?
Charlie, France

Friendlies aren't quite as pointless as people seem to think. We need the friendlies to both experiment with teams, formations, and tactics. If more experienced players miss these games then it may prevent the national squad from progressing.

Of course, this said, it also understandable that managers are reluctant to release players because of the risk of injury. Unfortunately some managers tend to be more restrictive than others.
Andy O, Netherlands (UK ex-pat)

I just hope that Sven learns from this and takes steps to make sure no club or manager gets the idea that they are bigger than England.
Steve Heron, England (Hornchurch)

I am absolutely disgusted. I have paid good money to go and watch England play on Saturday and now some of the stars will be missing simply because Alex Ferguson does not release his players for the match.

The fitness of David Beckham should be decided by independent doctors; perhaps they will then give us the truth.

Sven Goran Erickson must be given license by the FA to choose any player he sees fit, and the FA on this occasion should impose fines on Man Utd.
Dave, England

This isn't just club before country, it's Alex Ferguson's massive ego before country. The FA should do something about this. If we're not careful it'll be another 35 years before we win another trophy. How are we supposed to field a decent England side when they don't even get to play together before the tournament?
Caroline, London


Ferguson has always tried to make things difficult for England
Anthony Calleja, Malta

Ferguson is exactly right, he has a squad trying to win major honours both at home and in Europe which is already suffering badly from injuries, so why should he risk picking up any unnecessary injuries?

I also feel that the international friendly game is taking place at the wrong time in the year, people have been eagerly awaiting the kick-off to the new season and already we have to miss a week's football for a game that has no real purpose.
David Malone, Ireland

The final decision will surely have to be made by the player himself. Any manager, quite rightly, will want to field his strongest team possible and so it is unlikely that a compromise will be reached with any regularity. After all, to survive as a football manager, you have to look after number one.
Suzanne, Edinburgh

Alex Ferguson has always tried to make things difficult for England and he will continue to do so for that is his not so hidden agenda! He thinks and talks like Man Utd were some sort of gods but he should know that they are not the be all and end all of everything!
Anthony Calleja, Malta

There is universal agreement within football for the need to reduce the number of games over a season. If Sven wants to go against that collective wisdom by organising additional friendly matches, perhaps he would like to limit the scope of these matches to trying out new players, rather than wearing down the senior team members.
David Leah, England


Clubs should always have the final say
Andy M, Scotland

I wonder how often discussions are held between the national coach and team managers. Isn't this a sign that there have been few chances of exchanges among them? All they need is a series of discussions to be held periodically. Otherwise, their cold-wars will continue.
Genpuku Taro, Japan

Ferguson is taking the mickey out of Sven and he should be fined by the FA.
James Collington, Holland

Clubs should always have the final say. They pay the players wages after all, international football associations do not. There is nothing more frustrating for any club than one of your players returning from international duty injured.

Ferguson is right in this case. Why should he risk his players in some daft friendly when there are far more important League and Champions League games coming up, which the club require the player for?
Andy M, Scotland

I believe Sir Alex to be well within his rights. Why risk aggravating an existing problem for a friendly? With Keane out, Fergie risked Scholes against Boro, as he felt he had to. The same risk is not worth taking for a non-competitive match.
Aaron, England


Ferguson is rapidly becoming a footballing dictator
Paul, UK

I don't know who Alex Ferguson thinks he is but it seems he believes he is above every body else and can do as he pleases! He is a good manager but obviously thinks he rules the footballing world.

It may only be a friendly but these lads are fighting for their European Championship place. Maybe internationals get in the way of his quest to dominate the world of football but I think true England fans will not appreciate the way he works.
Sacko, England

Many managers fail to send all their players for friendly duty. Historically, Liverpool have been particularly notable in this respect, especially during the late 70's & early 80's. Steven Gerrard & Michael Owen have also been very unfortunate in more recent times, whilst Fergie has consistently sent four or five members of his squad into England friendlies.

Obviously, there is no doubt that Ryan Giggs has been restricted in his international career but he generally appears for competitive fixtures. Equally, this allows the international manager to bring on other players who don't have the same exposure to international opposition that the likes of Giggs and others regularly experience in the Champions League.
Paul, UK

Classic Ferguson! Much has been made of how Roy Keane thinks he's bigger than the game yet in many ways, Fergie has a more virulent strain of the "I can do what I want" disease.

The argument should not be so much about whether a manager should rest his players at the start of a long season but rather the manner in which he did it. England need this match before Euro 2004 qualifying begins and Scholes will be an integral part of that team. If he's not fit, then fair enough, but that he ran in the game last night suggests that that isn't quite the case.

Ferguson is rapidly becoming a footballing dictator who is clearly losing both his judgement and his magic touch. United won't win anything again this year and he will be one of the reasons why.
Paul, UK

Premiership games are twice as important as an international friendly. Utd pay Scholes' and Beckham's (large) wages and can choose whether or not they release them for pointless exercises like this. I pick club over country ever time.
Alvy singer, England


Friendlies should be used to give younger, less experienced players a cap
Alastair, Northern Ireland

With injuries mounting and the season just kicked of, it would be wise for all clubs to ensure there players remain injury free. Fergie is right to keep his boys home, that's were they belong.
Taz, UK

It's an absolute disgrace that time after time Man Utd players miss England friendlies for so called niggling injuries. If they aren't fit enough to play for their country then they should miss the next two matches their club has.

It seems to be one rule for Alex Ferguson and another for every other club - its starts to make you wonder if Fergie runs the FA or whether it's an FA conspiracy to help the Mancs in all competitions - remember the withdrawal from the FA Cup - no one else is allowed to do it.
Richard Stockton, England

Lots of people claim that friendlies are useless these days, so surely it would be a better idea to use them to blood new talent and give experience to less well used players.

You can hardly say Man Utd are damaging the national team after their youth policy have brought through the base of the midfield (the strongest point of the team).
Chris, England

Fergie is spot on; he's putting Manchester United first ahead of a pointless friendly. Friendlies should be used to give younger, less experienced players a cap.

Scholes should be given the weekend off. He has an ankle injury, and what else is worth pointing out is he is a bad asthmatic and unnecessary games are going to hamper not only his Man Utd season but also England's European games coming up.
Alastair, Northern Ireland


Forget club v country - this is a battle of managerial egos
Chris, Malta

This debate of club or country will never end. On one hand, the player has the obligation to play for his country but at the same time, the club is the one paying their wages.

Also, with such obscene money at stake, clubs are being very protective of their players. The last thing a club wants is for the player to be fatigued or injured when he returns from international duty. Maybe, there should be a same standard rule by the FA regarding national players - all players included in the squad should report and let the medical experts from the FA decide whether the player is fit to play, instead of the managers from the respective clubs claiming that their players are injured. Look at the amount of friendlies that Dyer or Owen has missed through club intervention.
Edmund, Singapore

Once again the anti-United brigade are out in force. It's absolutely right that club takes precedence over country where friendlies are concerned. The majority of supporters will never experience their team in the Champions League and the latter stages of the domestic cup competitions. Sir Alex is absolutely right about this and I'm sure Wenger, Houllier and Sir Bobby would do the same.
Mike, UK

Forget club v country - this is a battle of managerial egos. Sven wants to do his job in his ice-cool, clinical and comprehensive way - which includes treating friendlies with the importance of competitive matches.

Fergie doesn't like being told what to do - no way, no how - and being asked to provide precious assets for matches which HE deems unimportant amounts to just that...

In the meantime, I'm waiting for the Celebrity Deathmatch between these two.
Chris, Malta

I think Fergie is wrong to rest his players for friendlies, but I can see his point, as they are often no more than training matches with six or seven subs coming on at half time. What can Sven learn from that? The only people that I feel sorry for are the fans that pay a lot of money to go and watch these matches.

But if you watched the interview with Fergie the other day on Football Focus, Fergie said that he thinks that these are meaningless matches when some of his key players could get injured, but he said that he would never stand in the way of one of his players for a competitive match as these are important.

One suggestion could be: why not make a mini tournament like a British championship, (no competition from Scotland though) for the friendlies, as I sure players would then be given up more easily by Fergie, Wenger and co.
Dan, England


Playing for one's country is what every little boy dreams about
Teehee, UK

If Ferguson does not watch his back he will find that everyone in the game is against him (that's if they aren't already). With so many world class players, especially midfielders, I find it hard to believe that the Old Trafford manager is forced to play two players who are both carrying injuries.

Any manager knows that players carrying an injury risk injuring themselves further. Fergie is just bringing out the old excuses to avoid his players having to run around for another 90 minutes representing their country.

Sven named a small indicating that he has a good idea of the team that is going to play in the Euro qualifiers, yet now England find themselves without two of their best and most influential players.

Personally, I think country should come before club and thus if a player is called up they should be obliged to at least meet up with the squad. After all, playing for one's country is what every little boy dreams about.
Teehee, UK

The FA agreed to reduce the number of friendlies to accommodate the clubs, so this is a kick in the teeth for Sven. How are we going to have a chance of winning international trophies if the full squad is not allowed to get together on these limited occasions?
Anthony Wells, England

Representing your country is the ultimate accolade for most sports people. How can Sven develop a team when key players are not available due to feigned injuries.


It's all about Ferguson letting Sven know who's boss!
Purple Hayes, England

Alex Ferguson is a Scotsman who has little interest in the development of the England football team. With the huge amount of resources at his disposal Alex Ferguson has nothing to brag about, Man Utd are under-performers.
Nigel H, New Zealand

This sets a dangerous precedent. Ferguson should be reprimanded by the FA under the charge of witholding players from international duty. In any case, Ferguson's stated logic is questionable too.

Scholes is more likely to be injured in a competitive Premiership fixture against rivals like Middlesbrough that he is in a simple friendly between England and Portugal.
Anders, UK

This situation is nothing to do with club v country! It's all about Ferguson letting Sven know who's boss! The day this cantankerous, arrogant and spiteful old man finally leaves football for good can't come fast enough in this patriot's opinion!
Purple Hayes, England

If Scholes' ankle was still sore and painful, why did Fergie play him last night? What if he had aggravated it further? As for England, it seems like he's trying to provoke Eriksson.

Whether friendlies or competitive matches, England needs all the match time it can get if we are ever going to lift a trophy.
Saloni Shah, United Kingdom

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