Rio Ferdinand has been warned by Fabio Capello that England got a glimpse of the future with their win in Denmark on Wednesday.
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Ferdinand has figured in just three out of 13 internationals since being appointed skipper 12 months ago, a run that was extended in Copenhagen thanks to a calf injury he picked up in the warm-up to Manchester United’s first Premier League defeat at Wolves.
It did not prevent England recording a 2-1 triumph, in which both Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill excelled in central defence alongside John Terry.
And, whilst Ferdinand is virtually certain to be selected for next month’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales, coach Fabio Capello has left the 31-year-old in no doubt there are plenty of alternatives should his fitness problems persist.
"I am not happy Rio was injured because he is a fantastic player but I was happy with the performance of the other defenders. This is the future," said Capello.
"Gary Cahill is young, so is Michael Dawson, Joleon Lescott is also a good age.
"We also have Phil Jagielka, who was also injured. I am happy they have had the chance to play against a really good team. It made this one of the most important friendly games we have had.
"Now I understand the value of these players."
Although Capello professes not to be concerned about Ferdinand’s long-term health, it was enough of an issue to be brought up in conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson prior to his squad being announced for the Denmark clash.
"I spoke with Sir Alex and monitored him for five games myself," reflected Capello.
"He played very well and was back to his best. Now, after the last injury, he must wait again to play more often. I don’t know what is going to happen for the Wales game but I am happy with the possibilities I have."
Capello is more relaxed about the form of another United man, Wayne Rooney, even though the striker struggled to impose himself in midweek with the exception of his superb pass to Theo Walcott in the build-up to England’s equaliser.
In fairness to Rooney, tepid early-season form at United was punctuated with a couple of outstanding performances for his country, which Capello actually thinks have been maintained.
"Rooney is always an important player for England," said the Italian.
"He has also played well for Manchester United. I watched four games that he played in this period.
"He scored two goals against Aston Villa then made really important assists for the other players in the rest of the matches."
Clearly though, in Ashley Young, Capello has a plausible alternative, whilst Darren Bent’s second goal puts him in direct competition with Andy Carroll for a place against a Wales side hammered by the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday.
Not that Capello is reading too much into Gary Speed’s opening game as manager.
With key men missing this week – and a raucous Millennium Stadium crowd behind them on March 26 – the England coach is certain the dragon will be breathing fire in Cardiff.
"I watched the second-half of the Wales game on Tuesday. That was not the Wales that will play against us.
"They were without three of their most important players, and three important players can make a big difference."
After protecting the players required for Champions League duty over the next few weeks, Capello will follow up his sympathetic management this week by ensuring none of his squad are extended too far next month as his team to face Ghana in a Wembley friendly on March 29 will be packed with players not required against the Welsh.