Rio Ferdinand has launched a passionate defence of younger brother Anton but insists he "couldn't care less" whether or not John Terry featured in Sunday's Premier League clash between Manchester United and Chelsea.

34501 - Rio 'couldn't care less' if Terry played against United

Terry, who was stripped of the England captaincy on Friday, is due to stand trial in July, accused of racially abusing QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

Terry came face-to-face with Anton during Chelsea's FA Cup fourth-round clash against QPR last weekend, and was on a collision course with Anton's brother Rio for Sunday's fixture at Stamford Bridge. However, Ferdinand will not come up against his England defensive partner after Terry was ruled out with a knee injury.

Despite intense media speculation as to whether Ferdinand would shun a handshake from his international colleague, Ferdinand insisted it had not affected him.

When asked if it was a relief Terry was not going to be playing, he replied: "Not really. I couldn't care less if he played or not. I just think about playing for Manchester United and winning the game. I let the media talk about it, go on about it and create the storm.

"We are footballers. That is where we are best. That is where we enjoy being. The result and the performance of our team against theirs was definitely the most important thing for me."

Speaking to the BBC's Football Focus programme, Ferdinand admitted it has been frustrating watching Anton suffer the abuse of "small-minded people" following the incident over a matter that was not his fault.

"Anton is my little brother," he said. "We have grown up together and I have looked after him when we were kids. If something is going to affect him and hurt him, I am always there as a shoulder to lean on.

"In moments like this, when things are so public and you can't really say anything, it can be frustrating. For my family, yes, it has been tough. At the end of the day, my brother has not brought any accusations to anyone. He is not the accused, but he has had to sit there and take abuse from some small-minded people, which has been very disappointing.

"I hope people see what effect that has, not just on the actual person but the people around them as well, and think before they speak."

The allegations against Terry surfaced in October, just a week after Patrice Evra complained about Luis Suarez during Manchester United's Premier League encounter with Liverpool at Anfield, when Ferdinand was part of the visitors' starting line-up.

Suarez was subsequently banned for eight matches by the Football Association for racially abusing the United defender and Liverpool's conduct in the aftermath was called into question.

There have also been scores of abusive messages sent to the likes of Stan Collymore on Twitter and Ferdinand has reassessed how successful numerous anti-racism initiatives have been.

"I almost feel I have been fooled a little bit over the years," Ferdinand said. "Look back to the days when John Barnes and the other guys were playing and all the stuff they had to deal with, bananas on the pitch etc.

"I have always been someone who has championed our country for making great strides, and we have, but I thought that era was gone. It seems like it was just put to one side for a while. Now it seems to be a little bit more prominent.

"I hope it is just a group of small-minded people who are making it newsworthy at the moment and it can be stamped out."