Playing with injuries has hurt Ferdinand's form, claims agent

Rio Ferdinand has aided and abetted his own fall from grace according to his agent Pini Zahavi, who has claimed the Manchester United defender's dip in form is down to the fact he has been ignoring injury problems to continue playing.

The Israeli, one of the most influential agents, insists his client has exacerbated the loss of form which has characterised his season so far by refusing to listen to his body. In an interview with an online site, Zahavi criticised those who have dismissed the 30-year-old as a spent force and is confident that once he gets fully fit, questions about his ability will soon be answered.

Ferdinand may miss today's match with Blackburn with a calf problem but Zahavi was adamant that is has been his refusal to miss matches that have sparked what he believe are premature rumours of his downfall. "All the speculation about Rio's is totally incorrect," he said. "Rio will be back to his best when he has finally cleared up a succession of injuries. He has had a lot of bad luck this season.

"He has had about four injuries, and because of his desire to do well for United he will turn out even if he is not 100 per cent, and for him that has been a big mistake, because it has affected his form. Rio is the same player, with the same abilities, and he will show it the minute he is back fully fit again."

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday announced that Ferdinand's defensive partner Nemanja Vidic is also suffering from a calf problem while Ryan Giggs is also a doubt for today's game.

The United manager warned Ferdinand last week about how he needs to rediscover the touch that made him England's number one central defensive partner to Chelsea's John Terry. He outlined that Ferdinand "needs to re-find his form" if he wants to be consider a certainty for the World Cup squad yet despite his own warning, the United manager had changed his tune by the time of his media briefing yesterday morning.

"I'm not going into that," he said when asked to expand on Ferdinand's woes. "Because I read the stuff in the newspapers and I hear he is going to be dropped but I don't think any of you have access to my mind. You can try and pick my teams but you never will. I don't know where it is coming from. I just put it to the modern culture of humiliating people."

England's manager Fabio Capello yesterday defended next month's trip to Qatar to play Brazil after Ferguson, while not specifically mentioning the Doha fixture, lamented "the intrusion of a friendly game in some unknown country" in the midst of the club season. "I don't understand what this is all about," Capello said. "Most other countries are playing two games but we are only playing one match and returning the players on Sunday, four days earlier than the other countries. We did this out of respect to the players and their clubs at such a busy time in the fixture calendar."

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