Alex Ferguson to reconsider Wayne Rooney midfield role

Sir Alex Ferguson begins his five-match touchline ban tomorrow preparing to abandon the experiment of using Wayne Rooney in midfield.

After accepting his punishment for critical comments about Martin Atkinson in the wake of United's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea earlier this month - even if he still thinks he was right - Ferguson will be sat in the Old Trafford stands for the Premier League encounter with Bolton.

By following up that loss at Stamford Bridge with another reverse at Anfield, United are under pressure to gain a victory that would consolidate their position at the top of the table.

And that might mean a more advanced role for Rooney, who has won plaudits over the past week for a couple of excellent displays in midfield.

"We only started playing Wayne deeper because of the injury situation before the game against Arsenal last Saturday," said Ferguson.

"We were forced into trying to organise a team that gave us a chance of going through. In that particular game it worked.

"But Bolton are a completely different team and I may change it."

One man who definitely won't be involved is Rio Ferdinand, whose absence with a calf injury is about to extend into a seventh week.

Ferguson has raised doubts over the 32-year-old returning before the end of the season, although he insists Ferdinand still has a future, despite having three campaigns wrecked by fitness problems.

"Rio has plenty of years ahead of him," said Ferguson.

"He has had a few injuries over the last few years I am sure that are a concern for him.

"Calf injuries can be troublesome and we are not looking at this as a short-term situation for us. He has been out for a few weeks now anyway and has not started training yet.

"It looks to me as if we will be lucky to get him back for some point of the season.

"But he is still capable of coming back and playing at the top level again."

With skipper Nemanja Vidic also out, Chris Smalling and Wes Brown are likely to continue as United's central defensive partnership.

Ferguson will only be able to look down on proceedings from the stands, still nursing a sense of injustice at the manner in which he has been treated by the FA.

"It is disappointing," said Ferguson. "It is the only industry you can't tell the truth in."