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UEFA Champions League

Rio in fitness race for Champions League final

Rio Ferdinand could miss out on a starting place in the Champions League final unless the Manchester United defender can prove his fitness to Sir Alex Ferguson before the weekend.

A persistent calf injury sustained in the Champions League semi-final second leg victory over Arsenal at the Emirates on May 5 has ruled the England centre-back out of United's last three matches.

Although Ferguson is optimistic the 30-year-old will be available for Sunday's final Premier League match of the season at Hull City he has admitted that he would be uncomfortable picking Ferdinand to face Barcelona in Rome next Wednesday without a game under his belt since the injury.

''I am hoping he will be fit for Sunday, if not he is doubtful for Wednesday that is for sure,'' said the United manager. ''I think he needs a game going into the Champions League final because him having not played for three weeks is too much.

''The plan is for him to start training with us tomorrow and once we get football training we will have a better idea of his availability for Sunday.

''I think he is probably fit to play Wednesday but whether I would start him without a game is another matter.''

Ferguson also revealed utility man John O'Shea will start next week's final.

The Republic of Ireland international has filled in at right-back because of injuries to Wes Brown and Gary Neville and the United manager boss said he was keen to reward the 28-year-old's unstinting service.

''He can play anywhere for me: all along the back four, midfield - he's even played in goal for a short period - and because of injuries to Gary and Wes he's been a permanent fixture,'' said Ferguson.

''He takes his place in Rome because he deserves it, because he is ahead of everyone now. He is a fantastic, top professional.''

United boast a proud record of having won all three finals they have contested.

However, Ferguson's desire is for much more, with another win putting the Red Devils level with Ajax and Bayern Munich on four tournament victories. ''I have said so many times and I repeat it, we should have won more trophies in Europe,'' said Ferguson. ''It is a genuine criticism as far as I am concerned.

''There have been opportunities to do better. Sometimes we have been unlucky and sometimes we have been disappointing.

''It is an opportunity to get to four. Hopefully we take that because in terms of our history and placing ourselves in the pantheon of teams who have won it four or more times it would be fantastic for us.''


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