Rio Ferdinand still has a part to play at Manchester United, manager David Moyes has insisted, despite not even being on the bench in their last five games.
The 35-year-old started the season as an automatic choice but has not featured since the 1-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk on Dec. 10 and now appears the fifth-choice centre-back.
Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have all been preferred to Ferdinand, whose contract at Old Trafford expires next summer and who is not expected to be offered a new deal.
But Moyes told British national newspapers: "He's had a few injuries, a few niggles in his calf, but overall Rio's very much a part of it. The form of the team and the form of some of the young players has meant I've not needed to look to change it around too much."
Ferdinand has only made one appearance in the Premier League since September but Moyes said omitting major players is a fact of life for Manchester United managers.
He added: "That's part of the job and, if you play for this club, you always know there's going to be competition for places. I think if you manage this club there are always going to be big decisions to make.
"I think the players here all play their part. Rio and Vida have been two of the best centre-halves, certainly in this Premier League generation.
"For the last 10 years they have been terrific, so overall they are still very much a part of it. We'll continue to use them. There have always got to be other people to come in. This club has always got to have a line of people who are ready to come in and take their places and push them, and I think even for the young players, the challenge is to push the old players and take over. That's the way it works."