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Angry Capello set for first battle of wills with Ferguson

Owen Hargreaves who will play 45 minutes tonight for Manchester United in the Super Cup tie against Zenit St Petersburg, is not considered fit enough by his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, to join up with England next week.

Fabio Capello is understood to be so disillusioned with his treatment at the hands of Sir Alex Ferguson over the availability of Owen Hargreaves for England's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers, he is considering calling the midfielder up to verify his fitness independently. In what could prove his first major clash with the English football's most powerful clubs, Capello is also angry at Liverpool for the timing of Steven Gerrard's groin operation.

It follows an extraordinary challenge to Capello by Ferguson yesterday when the Manchester United manager said he was prepared to play Hargreaves in tonight's European Super Cup game against Zenit St Petersburg but not make him available for the games against Andorra on 6 September and Croatia four days later. The belligerent stance from Ferguson was reminiscent of the occasion he withdrew Paul Scholes from Sven Goran Eriksson's England squad to play Portugal in September 2002 citing injury before subsequently picking him to play in a league game against Middlesbrough.

Ferguson spoke about Hargreaves in Monaco yesterday, saying he felt it would be "impossible" for the midfielder to play against Andorra in Barcelona. Capello will be well aware that allowing Ferguson to dictate player availability will be a dangerous precedent to set. He is within his rights to call the player up and have his fitness checked by the Football Association doctor Leif Sward.

The news came the day after Rafael Benitez made the surprise announcement that Gerrard would also not be available for the two games because of an urgent operation that the player requires. While the England manager cannot control when Gerrard has the operation, he recognises that the timing of the decision suits Liverpool, and England not at all.

Ferguson said yesterday that Hargreaves' tendinitis meant that he would not be able to play for England. "Hargreaves has been training very well and I think he will get 45 minutes to an hour but I think it is impossible for him to play for England," said Ferguson. "This will be his first start and I won't be playing him for the full game. He will then need a recovery period so I think it will be very, very unlikely that Fabio would risk him.

"You might think that anyone could play against Andorra but England struggled last time. Then they have to go to Croatia. That is a very, very difficult match. You need players who are 100 per cent match-fit to play in a game of that nature. We know he is not ready for that."

Gerrard prepared to undergo an operation today on his troublesome groin injury, believed to be a hernia, after consulting a specialist yesterday. There is disappointment about Gerrard's operation. Capello knew he had a groin problem but Liverpool had indicated they intended to manage it with rest. However Gerrard played the full 90 minutes against Middlesbrough on Saturday, and another two hours against Standard Liège on Wednesday. This appears to have aggravated the injury to the extent an operation is unavoidable.

Benitez revealed the 28-year-old had played in pain all season, but had been prepared, or persuaded, to wait until Liverpool's Champions League place had been secured. "We decided that this was the best time. He will be okay for the first group stage match next month." Gerrard will miss Sunday's trip to Villa Park, and is doubtful for Manchester United's visit to Anfield on 13 September. Benitez, however, now has Javier Mascherano and Lucas back from the Olympics.

Capello, who names his squad on Sunday night, has fewer alternatives. With Michael Carrick already out he will have little alternative but to pair Lampard and Barry in midfield – a conspicuous failure recently, against the Czech Republic.

Round 1 between Fergie and Capello commences...

Think all United fans will chuckle to themselves while non-United England fans will be screaming treason and crying foul, and even hurl personal abuses at Fergie.

But what do you think about this conflict of interests between club and country? Only fair? Or who cares?

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its a tough one... but fergie is probaly worried that capello will play hargo the full 90 and tire out hargreaves and may get an injury.. while fergie is only playing him to get match fit

i dont know.. dont know why fergie might be doing this.. its

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Hmm, obviously Im in Fergie's camp here. I want Hargo to do well and be fit
for United. I certainly wouldnt want him to aggravate his injury in a tough
international game, which is Fergie's main concern. If he hadnt been injured for
so long, Fergie would have no problem letting him play for Engerland!
They have enough midfielders anyway and its only Andorra for God's sake, not Brazil :rolleyes:
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