Fergie performs u-turn on Rio's Euros chances
Published 22:30 07/04/12 By Derick Allsop
Sir Alex Ferguson insists Rio Ferdinand can still play a vital role in the future of Manchester United and England.
The central defender has defied recurring injuries to lead United’s charge to the top of the Premier League.
And United manager Ferguson believes the 33-year-old has proved himself worthy of a call-up to the national squad for this summer’s European Championship finals.
Ferdinand made only one appearance for his country last year and was seemingly discarded by Fabio Capello before the Italian coach walked out on the FA.
But Ferguson is convinced the player he signed for a record £30million a decade ago still sets the standard for club and country.
Ferguson said: “I think it’s obvious Rio is as good as any England centre-back at the moment.
“He and John Terry are the experienced centre-backs that England have got.
“All the rest are young, really. I don’t think there are any experienced centre-backs around to challenge them.
“Rio’s not been in the squad, but that’s a decision for the next England manager.
"I would take him, yes. For his experience alone. He’s been brilliant for us. He should be OK for another season with us, anyway.”
Ferguson pointedly left out Ferdinand when he recently listed United’s England candidates for Ukraine and Poland, doubtless wishing to ease the burden on that fragile frame.
Ferdinand was named as England captain for the 2010 World Cup finals, following the first demotion of Terry, only to be ruled out by injury and he has struggled since to maintain consistent fitness.
Ferguson has reacted by encouraging Ferdinand to adapt his game and the result has been as startling as it has been gratifying for United in the absence of injured centre-back and captain Nemanja Vidic.
The United boss said of Ferdinand: “He had to change his game. He couldn’t rely on his pace the way he used to as a kid because he was such a pure athlete and so mobile.
"He could outrun anyone. He used to take advantage of that, but he can’t do that now, so his positional play is more important.
“He plays a bit deeper than he used to. That’s not a problem because his experience is the vital part.
“He’s taken on a lot of responsibility, with Vidic being out, and he has gone a long way in helping Jonny Evans and David de Gea.
“I think he’s relished that responsibility. He’s generally shown his most consistent form. Even though he was more of an athlete in his younger days, he made the odd mistake through carelessness and casualness.
“He had that trait. But now he’s using all his experience and not making any mistakes at all. He’s doing all the right things.
"We’re looking after it, too. We don’t train him every day - 'We’ll have a quiet day', as we call it.”
Ferguson – seeking victory at home to QPR in Sunday's early game to open an eight-point Premier League lead, before rivals City face Arsenal in the 4pm match – is content that he has enough experience running through his side to guide the club to a 20th title.
He said: “Hopefully, our experience will count in the run-in and it’s not just Rio.
“Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick represent a lot of experience and we expect them to be right on top of their job.”