FA and United to discuss Ferdinand's availability

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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand will be examined by the Manchester United medical staff today after England's flight back from La Manga was delayed. The England doctor, Leif Sward, will hold talks with United about the chances of Ferdinand playing again this season after his injury has been assessed at Old Trafford.

Ferdinand has been troubled for the past seven weeks by the persistent knee problem, and although a scan revealed that he was fit enough to face South Africa last week, he was taken off at half-time. He has yet to return to full training after a week of solo gym sessions at the squad's training camp at La Manga.

While the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, hopes Wayne Rooney and John Terry, who have returned to full training, will be able to play a part in next week's friendly against Serbia and Montenegro, Ferdinand will almost certainly be absent, raising doubts that he will be fit to face Slovakia in England's Euro 2004 qualifier on 11 June.

The Football Association wants to avoid a confrontation over Ferdinand's fitness and has been in regular touch with the Old Trafford medical staff over the past week. Club and country will then decide together whether he should return for England duty with the rest of the squad on Sunday before Tuesday's game against Serbia and Montenegro at Leicester.

Birmingham's Matthew Upson is on stand-by to replace Ferdinand at centre-back alongside Gareth Southgate, while Terry could make his debut as a substitute.

Rooney's availability would renew pressure on Emile Heskey's position up front. Trevor Sinclair, who sustained a dead leg in training earlier this week, also hopes to be involved when England meet up again on Sunday.

Meanwhile, David Beckham is to make a televised appeal to fans warning them to behave at future internationals. The England captain will appear on BBC1, ITV and Sky before next Tuesday's friendly to ask England supporters to avoid a repeat of the scenes at the last home international, when the win over Turkey at Sunderland was marred by pitch invasions.

* The Football Association has confirmed that England will play Croatia in a summer friendly. The likely venue is Portman Road, Ipswich, probably on 19 August.