Ferdinand salutes passionate McClaren

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Aprioferdinand.jpg' class='caption'> England coach Steve McLaren has earned praise from Rio Ferdinand and other players because of his leadership skills and verbal blasts

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Manchester, England:

Rio Ferdinand is used to verbal blasts - the Manchester United defender gets plenty of them from manager Alex Ferguson. England coach Steve McClaren is a similar type of leader, and he's earning praise from Ferdinand and other players because of it. "The new manager is challenging players mentally and physically," Ferdinand said of McClaren, who took over from Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup. "If he's got a problem or he sees something to be rectified in the team he will just come out and say it to the lads right away." Ferdinand said Eriksson tended to speak to the players in a quiet manner, but McClaren doesn't hold back with any criticism. "I don't think there's anything better than hearing the manager being honest in front of the lads or even to your face by yourself, telling you where you went wrong and what you've got to do to improve," Ferdinand said. "Because it will only make you a better player." Since England's quarterfinal exit at the World Cup, the team has won three straight games without conceding a goal. England leads its 2008 European Championship qualifying group going into Saturday's game against Macedonia at Old Trafford, and one reason for their success has been the freedom given to the defense to push forward. Ferdinand is loving the chance to express more of himself in the national jersey. "I've always been brought up like a free spirit playing football," he said. "It wasn't really encouraged under the last regime." The new flexibility has transformed England, he explained, with the establishment of a fluid unit, attacking and defending. "In the past I think England teams have been too rigid. Players have been put into positions and then, that's it. That's all is expected. "We've got to demand and expect a lot more of each other. We've been a lot more cautious than we should have been where other teams throw caution to the wind a little bit but still get good results." (AP)

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