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Mar 16, 2013

Ferguson: Ferdinand will join England

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that defender Rio Ferdinand will join up with the England squad on Monday.

Ferdinand, 34, earned his first England call-up under manager Roy Hodgson for the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro later this month.

There were reports on Saturday morning that Ferdinand could yet turn down the chance to represent his country again, either in response to being left out by Hodgson until now or in order to prolong his club career.

However, Ferguson - asked tonight if the defender would be joining up with England on Monday - told ESPN: "Yes."

Ferguson, who reported no casualties following a win which extends his team's lead at the top of the table to 15 points, was pleased with Ferdinand's contribution.

He said: "Rio has always had the ability to break into midfield. He doesn't do it as much as he used to but he did today and got us a goal.

"Most of the time this season we've played well. The performance today doesn't reflect the 15 points ahead we are.

"I thought some of Reading's football was quite good but they didn't really make any chances. I expected danger from set-piece play but we did defend quite well.

"We are making arrangements for some players to fly home by privately hired jet after their matches to make sure they get home as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

"Tiredness is a great leveller but we'll do our utmost to make sure we field the freshest possible teams. Private planes are going to cost the club an awful lot of money but it is something we feel we have to do.''

Ferguson made eight changes today and handed Alex Buttner a rare start. The changes did not affect United's winning momentum, even if their performance was, at times, disjointed.

"It has been a great season for us,'' said Ferguson. "Most of the time we have been playing well and obviously today doesn't reflect the 15 points ahead we are, it is the previous six months.

"People can say what they like. You don't get points or medals for being complacent and we won't be.''

The Royals are now seven points adrift of safety and without a manager, following Brian McDermott's dismissal at the beginning of the week.

"No-one was more surprised than me,'' said caretaker boss Eamonn Dolan. "It is well documented that Brian is a good friend of mine but the decision was made and we move forward.''

Reading did not create many chances. But they still left lamenting referee Lee Mason's refusal to award a spot-kick for Nemanja Vidic's clear push on Adrian Mariappa inside the area at the start of the second half.

"It was a clear penalty but I think the referee thought I was on work experience and 'perfect a little 1-0 loss for Reading' and would be fine,'' he said. "I wouldn't have expected that from the referee but what can you do?''

Ferguson acknowledged the deflection which Rooney's shot got off Reading defender Alex Pearce helped his team.

He added on ESPN: "I don't know if the goalkeeper would have saved it or not but it was a bad deflection and went over his head.''

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.

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