Ferguson on defensive as critics write off Ferdinand

Manager insists support is all his centre-back needs to rediscover finest form / Owen to start in attack against CSKA tonight after Rooney becomes a father

Sir Alex Ferguson was back defending his underperforming centre-half Rio Ferdinand yesterday, saying that, despite evidence and comments to the contrary from within the game, there was "no depreciation in his qualities".

The Manchester United manager also offered a revealing insight into his man-management skills when he said Ferdinand was in need of an arm around his shoulder. Ferguson also admitted that Ferdinand has, as his agent Pini Zahavi said on Friday, been turning out when less than fit. "Playing with injuries is not the easiest thing to do, but of course we will try to get that right," the United manager said.

Ferguson felt the need to defend his player following suggestions this weekend from Graham Taylor that Ferdinand had "lost his legs" and that his travails for England in Ukraine and United at Anfield over the last month demonstrated that his loss of pace was irreversible. "I just don't think he is – or will be – the wonderful player he once was," Taylor said. But Ferguson countered yesterday saying there was "no discernible depreciation in his qualities, none for me at all".

Ferguson's initial attempts to shake Ferdinand out of his malaise led him to employ shock tactics two weeks ago, when he suggested that "with his ability and experience he should be coping" with the situations he was mishandling. But his manager evidently feels sympathy is now a requirement for his defender, 31 next Saturday, who may miss Sunday's visit to Stamford Bridge as well as tonight's Champions League tie with CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford with a calf injury.

"We've always had a situation where one of the star players hits a little blip and he is going to get criticism," Ferguson said. "That's all part of being a player at United. With Rio, no player likes to be criticised. They like to be loved and have arms around their shoulders at times, but he will come out of it, no question about that."

Reports of Ferdinand's fitness have been contradictory. In the spring, the player said that a back injury meant that he would have to do morning gym sessions for the rest of his career. But with England in Ukraine last month, he said that the extra gym sessions were behind him. Some eye-catching explanations of Ferdinand's injuries – Ferguson said he might have strained his back on a flight home from England's friendly in Amsterdam in August – have added to the enigma. The United manager, whose side can advance to the knockout stages by beating tonight's visitors, said he was not prepared to take risks with Ferdinand. "Calf injuries can be troublesome and, if you don't arrest them and give them proper treatment, you can end up with players playing games when they are not 100 per cent," he said.

Wes Brown and Jonny Evans will form United's central defensive duo, possibly in preparation for Chelsea with Nemanja Vidic still undergoing treatment on his own calf problem and suspended for Sunday. Darren Fletcher returns after his foot injury. Wayne Rooney's wife Coleen gave birth to their first child, Kai Wayne, at 2.20pm yesterday, though Ferguson may still prefer to give Michael Owen a second Champions League start and leave Rooney to his parenting. The decision may hinge on Dimitar Berbatov's reaction to treatment on an injured knee.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past