Rio Ferdinand yet to start negotiating over new Manchester United deal

Rejection of England call-up strengthens defender's hand
• Contribution to United's title challenge significant

Rio Ferdinand has yet to start discussions over a new contract at Manchester United and the defender's decision to reject an England call-up and focus on his club duties for the rest of the season has strengthened his negotiating position.

On Sunday evening Ferdinand chose against meeting up with Roy Hodgson's squad after receiving a first international selection since June 2011 for the World Cup qualifiers in San Marino and Montenegro. The central defender cited his determination not to compromise a carefully detailed conditioning programme that has allowed him to become a regular starter for United again.

Ferdinand's decision will have pleased Sir Alex Ferguson after the manager suggested on Friday that the player may pull out due to concerns that going away with England may disrupt his fitness.

The 34-year-old currently earns around £130,000 a week on a deal that expires in the summer. Despite Ryan Giggs this month agreeing a new one-year contract at United and Ferguson stating Ferdinand would be next, talks have not started.

Ferdinand and his advisers are relaxed about the prospect and are in no hurry to begin discussions as they consider other options, though his first choice in principle is to continue at United.

Ferdinand has attracted interest from China and America, where he would hope to attract a salary that would at least match his current one, and he spoke earlier this season of waiting to see how many games he would play and how his fitness would hold out. Ferdinand has featured in 22 of United's 29 league matches, starting 21, and is again first-choice. This form won him the England recall by Hodgson.

Asked recently about Ferdinand following Giggs in extending his time at United, Ferguson said: "That is a strong possibility. It would have to happen before the end of the season."

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