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Rio ready to fire United to glory

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has played down concerns regarding his fitness and claims he is ready to lead the club to Champions League and Premier League success.

• Ferguson to ring the changes
• Man Utd v Schalke preview
• Bidwell speaks to Manuel Neuer

Ferdinand has been troubled by a succession of problems for the past three seasons and made only his 26th appearance of the current campaign against Arsenal on Sunday, compared to the 43 that have been amassed by central defensive partner Nemanja Vidic.

The England international's most recent problem was a calf strain that kept him on the sidelines for six weeks, since when he has been rested for a number of games by manager Sir Alex Ferguson and it would be no surprise if he sits out Wednesday night's Champions League semi-final second leg against Schalke.

If Ferguson does rest the centre-back, it will only be because he wants Ferdinand fresh, because the player himself is happy with his fitness just now.

"People keep going on about how many games I have missed and compared to the usual amount I play you could say it has been a bit of a sporadic season for me,'' Ferdinand told United Review. "But I have been pleased with my performances and I feel back to my best now.

"My back is fine and hopefully I can put the niggling calf problems I have had this season behind me. I feel good and to be involved in the big games at this stage of the season, fighting for trophies, is what you want as a footballer. We just need to make sure we get the job done.''

If Ferdinand is left out, Chris Smalling is his likely replacement. The England Under-21 star has enjoyed an outstanding debut campaign following his arrival from Fulham and Ferdinand is convinced that in his fellow Londoner and Northern Ireland international Jonny Evans, United already have their defence of the future.

"Chris has been fantastic,'' said Ferdinand. "He and Jonny are great young players with big futures at this club. In time I am sure those two will be the bedrock of the team.''


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