New England captain Rio Ferdinand heads into tonight’s Champions League clash with AC Milan keen to re-assert his authority on the biggest stage. The defender, sidelined for three months with a back injury and banned in for four matches domestic football, may start against the Italians tonight.
With Nemanja Vidic ruling himself out the match tonight – an injury that Sir Alex Ferguson classes as mental and not physical – the Scot may call on Ferdinand to bring calm to the inevitable San Siro storm.
It’s a difficult call for Ferguson, with Jonny Evans and Wes Brown ably deputising in recent matches. Deploying Ferdinand, seen as a risk by the manager, is offset against the experience at the highest level that the defender adds.
“I certainly hope he is all right until the end of the season, we have done a lot of work and he has too,” said Ferguson of Ferdinand yesterday.
“Even non-sportsmen know how difficult back injuries can be but he has had no problem since he started back 10 weeks ago.
“He has done his core work, which has helped him and he will probably start.”
Ferdinand’s injury problems began during the FIFA Club World Cup in December 2008, causing the defender to appear in just 13 games for United this season.
Ferdinand returned for United in United’s recent match with Hull City but received a four match ban for striking Craig Fagan with an arm. He missed United’s victories over Portsmouth and Arsenal, and the draw with Aston Villa. The defender, 30, will also sit out United’s game with Everton but will play in the Carling Cup final.
Should Ferdinand play Wes Brown is likely to shift to right-back, with the inexperienced Brazil ianRafael da Silva dropping to the bench.
Meanwhile, Vidic pulled himself out of United’s travelling party to Milan – not the first time the giant Serbian has done so this campaign. It’s a policy that has led to an increasingly exasperated Ferguson.
The Guardian reports today that the Serbian’s decision was against the advice of United’s medical staff, with Vidic having trained for 10 days in a row.
“It’s a difficult one because he feels he needs to do a lot of training,” Ferguson said of 28-year-old Vidic.
“He has been training for the last 10 days but he still does not feel he is ready to take part in games.
“That’s something we just have to be patient with and that’s what we are doing at the moment.”
Ferguson was also forced to deny that Vidic is on the move this summer. The defender has been linked with moves to AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona in recent months.
“A lot of clubs want to buy our players,” added Ferguson.
“Of course we want him to stay. He’s a great player, one of the best centre-backs in the world. Of course we want to keep him.”
However, as Rant reported this weekend, there is an increasing feeling that the Serbian’s commitment to the club is questionable at best.