What Roy Hodgson had probably never envisaged, having picked a way through all the politics and finally been emboldened enough to select Rio Ferdinand, was the possible scenario that the whole thing could be kiboshed and the player, under considerable pressure from Sir Alex Ferguson, might suddenly perform his own about-turn.
Hodgson, to put it another way, may have overlooked one of the occupational hazards that has intermittently affected everyone who has managed England over the past quarter of a century: that Manchester United's manager tends to think of international football in the same way a teenager thinks of acne. It is permanently an ordeal, it can flare up when you least want it and there is no point pretending it does not drive you mad.
It certainly came as a jolt to learn Ferdinand was seriously considering declining Hodgson's invitation to be reinstated to the England setup and you will have to forgive me for suspecting that Ferguson's fingerprints were all over it before the confirmation that the player would, after all, be checking into St George's Park .
Something clearly changed because earlier on Saturday the message behind the scenes was that it was almost certain Ferguson would get his way and Ferdinand would pull out. Hodgson was sufficiently concerned to contact them both and offer some form of compromise – a sensible one, too, if it means Ferdinand is held back from Friday's game in San Marino to play the more important fixture in Montenegro four days later.
Whether Ferguson is entirely happy about it – there was a significant clue in the way he was in no mood to expand on the subject after United's defeat of Reading – is another matter but it would be grossly unfair if he does hold it against his player. Ferguson, unfortunately, can be grossly unfair on occasions.
Plainly it was not a straightforward decision considering the loyalty Ferdinand generally feels for Ferguson after 10 years at Old Trafford, with a testimonial already booked in, compared with what he thinks of Hodgson for discounting him from the European Championship in favour of John Terry.
Yet withdrawing would have automatically killed his England career stone dead just as Hodgson was talking about him playing in the World Cup and he deserves the opportunity to add to his 81 caps. It has, after all, taken an awful lot to get him back into England's plans and, after everything that has passed, it would have felt unsatisfactory, to say the least, if Hodgson's olive branch had been snapped in two.
For Ferdinand it would have meant the end of his England days for good.
For Hodgson it would have been a humiliation and, more importantly, deprived him of the chance to pick his best team for a game that will go a long way to deciding whether England qualify automatically for the World Cup. For the Football Association there would have been that uneasy sense that, once again, they were letting Ferguson call the shots. Football déjà vu, you could call it.
The FA has, after all, experienced that feeling on quite a few occasions over the years but, equally, this is not the first time Hodgson could have made everything a lot more straightforward with better communication. A simple telephone call to Michael Carrick before Euro 2012 would have deduced that he had not fully retired from international football, as Hodgson had wrongly been led to believe. The same would have quickly resolved the Micah Richards issue when naming England's standby list.
Instead Hodgson has a habit of delegating calls or deciding it is not necessary and, whether he likes it or not, in the modern game that is old-fashioned and can lead to problems (Carrick being the prime example). It is true that an England manager is under no obligation to have his players on speed-dial but there is a middle ground and, in Ferdinand's case, it was a mistake not to make the relevant checks in advance. If nothing else, it would have saved a lot of faffing about since Thursday's squad announcement.
Hodgson, to give him his due, has been extremely proactive ever since he realised the seriousness of the matter and there is a great irony here that he has gone to such lengths to make sure Ferdinand is involved when, until the past few weeks, the same player might already have retired for all England's manager seemed to care.
The other irony is that a significant part of Ferguson's argument can be traced back to the fact that the FA's fixture scheduling has left United with two games in three days after the international break. First they play Sunderland on the Saturday lunchtime and then have another early kick-off the following Monday for the FA Cup quarter-final replay at Chelsea. Ferguson has told Ferdinand he wants him to be involved in both fixtures and, if he genuinely feels that playing for England would make that unrealistic, it stands to reason United's manager would try to put his club first. It is true that he goes about it sometimes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer but there must be legitimate reasons for concern given the player's fitness issues.
Ferguson's point was that he was not necessarily concerned about Ferdinand playing extra matches but more so about what happens between the games and, specifically, the 34-year-old being taken off the carefully devised fitness programme that United have put together.
It is difficult to think the game-time is not more of a factor than Ferguson lets on but, even if we take him at his word, it is not particularly clear why he appears to distrust the FA's ability not to send back the player as a wreck. Hodgson's subsequent conversations with the United manager have been largely based on trying to reassure him, pointing out the FA employs a small army of fitness coaches, conditioning experts and sports scientists who are quite accustomed to different players having their own needs.
If Ferdinand requires a specially tailored programme, one could easily be drawn up in liaison with the relevant people at Old Trafford. If he needs to sit out full training, Hodgson tends to be a sympathetic listener.
Ferdinand might not be on speaking terms with Ashley Cole but the Chelsea defender is a case in point. Cole often gets at least one more day's rest than the other England players to manage the fact that he is 32 and has a weak ankle. On other occasions he will do nothing more onerous than a light 15-minute jog, then go back inside for a massage or a swim.
As for the amount of time Ferdinand spends on the pitch, resting him against San Marino would have made perfect sense anyway given the impoverished state of the opposition. Perhaps that was Hodgson's plan in the first place. It still represents a pretty significant gesture when it comes to appeasing Ferguson and that makes it a smart move on Hodgson's part because, rightly or wrongly, these are the politics that come with the England job.
Hodgson's squad for the next two games included seven United players, as opposed to five from Spurs, three from Chelsea and Liverpool, two from Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton and one each from West Brom and Celtic. It is vital for Hodgson that he stays on good terms with Ferguson and, in fairness, he has done it pretty well to this point, even if the last couple of days have given him a better understanding why so many of his predecessors found it a gruelling experience.
McDermott falls victim to bookies' curse and failure of common decency
The three most terrifying words a football manager can hear these days have to be "flood of bets". They means two things in this profession: one, you are about to be fired; two, quite a few people are already in on the secret and have already taken the appropriate steps to make a fistful of cash out of it.
Anyone with an understanding of the betting business – not to mention football's scruples – realised Brian McDermott was in trouble at Reading as soon as the bookmakers put out a press release reporting a sudden wave of bets on him being the next manager to lose his job.
That was the point at which McDermott probably realised it was time to clear his desk and, however it is dressed up, it is a pretty shabby set of events that the first instinct for so many people was to make a few quid from another's misfortune and that the tip-off can only have originated from within the club.
McDermott has understandably attracted a lot of sympathy over the past week, bearing in mind he won promotion with Reading last season and there was no concerted effort from supporters to have him removed. The decision to fire him, you would like to think, would be kept to a select few and go no further until the news was broken. Yet plainly that is to forget that common decency is not always easily found at this level of the game.
As it was, the stampede to lay bets saw the odds tumble from 25-1 to 4-9 in 53 minutes. According to William Hill it was mostly tenners and twenties to begin with, all funnily enough from Berkshire and the surrounding areas. The stakes started to go up and the market was eventually suspended after a bet of £270. Totted up, that is quite a few people who made a quick killing. Uncanny how they all seem to have such good information.
The ref Chelsea just don't get
It is nearly four months since the Football Association decided that, whatever Ramires thought he heard Mark Clattenburg say to John Obi Mikel when Chelsea played Manchester United in November, it certainly wasn't "monkey", as the Brazilian alleged.
Since then Clattenburg has taken charge of 20 matches but the Premier League has deliberately kept him away from refereeing another Chelsea game. How long that will last nobody seems sure but don't be surprised if it runs into next season.
Clattenburg, one of the two English referees to be selected for World Cup duties, would ordinarily be a good shout to get his first FA Cup final.
First, though, he will probably have to wait to see if Chelsea get there. If they do, he might as well forget it, which is a strange kind of justice for someone on the wrong end of a wrong allegation.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © dullhunk