Former England star Rio Ferdinand says Gareth Southgate should have better supported Raheem Sterling rather than hang the player "out to dry".
Sterling has been dropped from the England squad for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifying match with Montenegro after an incident with Joe Gomez in a private team area at St George's Park.
The Manchester City forward admitted he let emotions get the better of him during a bust-up with Liverpool defender Gomez, the pair having also had a confrontation during the closing stages of the Premier League meeting between their teams at Anfield on Sunday.
Sterling later insisted on social media that he and Gomez quickly put the conflict behind them, but it was not enough to stop Southgate from taking action.
Ex-England international Gary Neville backed Southgate's decision, but his former team-mate Ferdinand – who has spoken previously of how club rivalries damaged morale in the national squad - thinks the affair should have been handled differently.
Indeed, Ferdinand says he regularly saw England team-mates involved in serious physical altercations, saying such incidents are not uncommon "in squads full of testosterone".
"Gareth has handled being England manager brilliantly – up to this point," Ferdinand wrote on Facebook.
"He has conducted himself in an admirable, eloquent & engaging way. Helping to make a nation feel like they can have some sort of confidence & respect for the national team.
"However, I feel this incident could have been handled better. Keep it behind closed doors & deal with it internally surely?!
"Raheem Sterling was still upset with Gomez about the result on Sunday & their little pushing/words said during the game.
"Obviously as a manager I'm sure having a harmonious squad is the best scenario - handshakes and hugs on sight not confrontations. But let's be honest now this kind of stuff isn't uncommon in squads full of testosterone.
"In the various squads I have been a part of I have seen players get punched in the face, ribs broken, nose busted, head kicked like a football... The main question is: Why this couldn't be handled internally?
"I suppose the management have felt it would be better to nip it in the bud prior to the press, agents, family friends leaking the news. However, the worst case on this instance would have been someone asking in a press conference 'what happened between Raheem & Gomez, we heard there was a fight'. Easy answer & we have a game to concentrate on. Incident done and dusted. No player looks any worse, we move on.
"Now Raheem is left to defend himself from all of the haters that had had their keyboards turnt [sic] off due to him becoming a very worthy ambassador for the English game, and rightly so.
"I just feel this could and should have been handled better to support the player & not hang him out to dry.
"One of our World Class players who has conducted himself wonderfully through Racism and unwarranted criticism in an England shirt will now come under more scrutiny and be vilified in the media no doubt – when this could have been dealt with internally. Hindsight is a great thing though."