Ferdinand ready to play in midfield for England as well as injury-hit United

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The Independent Football

Rio Ferdinand has declared his willingness to take on a midfield role for club and country. Manchester United's injury crisis forced Sir Alex Ferguson to push Ferdinand forward from his usual defensive slot against Wolves on Sunday.

The Londoner impressed so much that the former United and England man Paul Ince immediately called on Sven Goran Eriksson to hand the 27-year-old the midfield holding role for England which Ledley King has previously performed.

Such a move would resolve Eriksson's selection headache in central defence, where Ferdinand, John Terry and Sol Campbell are vying for three starting slots.

While the Swede will not have a chance to consider such a move until England tackle Uruguay at Anfield on March 1, he could get another chance to see how Ferdinand performs in the role at Ewood Park tomorrow.

With Alan Smith suspended, Ferguson may have little option but to continue with his Ferdinand experiment, particularly as the arrival of £7m Serbian Nemanja Vidic and recent impressive form of Wes Brown offer the United manager greater options in defence.

Although he would prefer to remain with purely defensive duties, Ferdinand would happily continue in midfield - for United and England - as long as he is asked.

"You have to be able to fit in all over the park if it benefits the team," the £29.1m former Leeds player said. "On Sunday, we had a lot of injuries and the manager also decided Darren Fletcher needed a rest, so I went in there.

"It was an interesting, new experience but who knows whether I could step up to that position against an international side.

"I am a centre-half by trade and ideally I would prefer to play there. But I will play anywhere for Manchester United or England and if the manager calls upon me to do that job again, I will."

Confirmation that Paul Scholes will miss the remainder of the campaign after suffering from swelling behind his eye forced Ferguson to scour Europe looking for a potential replacement.

But reported attempts to sign the Swiss captain, Johann Vogel, from Milan and Reggiana's Paraguay international Carlos Paredes on loan proved fruitless, leaving Ferguson to limp to the end of the season with a reduced squad, but one he can at least afford.

"We are working with a squad of about 19 to 20 players," said Ferguson. "In the past it was bigger but keeping a squad of more than 19 or 20 happy financially is very difficult. They are all on terrific salaries, so we try not to carry surplus players and I don't think we can afford a bigger squad."

Ferguson is expected to recall Fletcher, a move that could see Louis Saha drop to the bench, despite the Frenchman scoring seven times in his last 10 games. Cristiano Ronaldo should be fit after a minor knee injury kept him out of the trip to Molineux.

United will no doubt be hoping for the same result that they enjoyed against Blackburn in the Carling Cup seven days ago, but this time without the ugly scenes in the tunnel which marred the contest.

Sparks always seem to fly when Robbie Savage is around and if Ferdinand is called on to play in midfield, his duel with the Welshman should be worth watching after last week's angry shoving match.

But it is the Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel who concerns Ferguson the most. The giant American kept the Red Devils at bay for long spells in last week's 2-1 win, producing a string of fine saves, including one to deny a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty.

Friedel was also on top form in the previous Premiership meeting between the North-west rivals in September. That time, it was Rovers who came out on top, meaning that victory for the hosts tomorrow would see them record a League double over United for the first time in 75 years.

"Their goalkeeper had a fantastic night against us last week," said Ferguson. "If he has another tomorrow and plays the way he normally does against us it is going to be a very tight game."

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