Ferguson welcomes Rio return

The United defender had been out of action for over two months with

a calf injury when he made a seamless return in the first leg of

the Champions League quarter-final win over Chelsea. Three weeks

and three games later, Ferdinand looks as if he has never been away

and tonight in Gelsenkirchen will be one of the United men aiming

to keep legendary Spain striker Raul quiet. If he can manage it,

Ferdinand will have taken the Red Devils a long way towards

reaching their third final in four seasons. Ferguson believes the

omens are good. “Rio’s ability showed itself in the first leg

against Chelsea,” he said. “He was absolutely immense. “That

experience and ability is vital in the situation we are in at the

moment. He is fresh and ready to play and that is a big step

forward for us.” Ferdinand will partner skipper Nemanja Vidic at

the heart of United’s defence. Elsewhere, the make-up of Ferguson’s

team is rather harder to predict. Park Ji-sung, for instance, is

virtually certain to start but could occupy a spot in a three-man

central midfield or on either of the flanks. Similarly Wayne Rooney

might be pushed out wide, if Ferguson selects in-form Javier

Hernandez, could be selected as a lone striker, as he was against

Bayern 12 months ago, or even in midfield, where he has been pretty

effective in the last couple of games. It is a fair bet he will

have a better time of it that he did on his last visit to

Gelsenkirchen though, made infamous by the Cristiano Ronaldo wink

that accompanied Rooney’s red card for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho

as England bowed out of the World Cup to Portugal in 2006. “You

have to put bad moments behind you. That is normal for any

footballer,” said Ferguson, who claimed not to be aware such an

important moment for his club took place in the ground where he was

giving his thoughts. “But good players create their own platforms

in the sense of the importance of their performance. “Wayne, more

than anyone, realises that performances are the thing that he will

always be judged on. “There is an expectation on the boy. He has

stepped up to the mark for that – and proved himself entirely.

No-one else.”