Rio not risked for Benfica trip

Ferdinand was not in the 19-man squad that flew to Portugal on

Tuesday morning, meaning United were without their first-choice

central defensive pairing as Nemanja Vidic is currently missing

with a calf problem. There was no place either for Federico Macheda

or Mame Biram Diouf, who scored twice for the reserves in their win

over Fulham on Monday night, but Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra

shrugged off hip and knee knocks picked up at Bolton on Saturday.

It is not thought Ferdinand has suffered a fresh injury. However,

after making his first appearance in a month during the 5-0 romp at

The Reebok, and with Chelsea due at Old Trafford on Sunday, Sir

Alex Ferguson is not wanting to take any chances with the

32-year-old, whose fitness record has been patchy over the past few

years. With Ferdinand out, it is likely to mean a move into central

defence for Phil Jones, outstanding at full-back on Saturday, who

would be making his debut in the competition. Michael Owen, fresh

from watching his horse Brown Panther finish second in the St

Leger, was also named, although if changes are made to Ferguson’s

attacking line-up, last season’s joint Golden Boot winner, Dimitar

Berbatov, would appear to have more of a claim. Ferguson has

suggested he will rely on experience, which could be good news for

Darren Fletcher, Park Ji-sung and Ryan Giggs, who have been reduced

to peripheral roles so far this term. The United boss must also

decide whether to hand Anders Lindegaard his competitive debut, or

stick with David de Gea, who has been steadily improving after a

shaky start to his Red Devils career. United (from): De Gea,

Lindegaard; Evans, Evra, Fabio, Jones, Smalling; Anderson, Carrick,

Fletcher, Giggs, Nani, Park, Valencia, Young; Berbatov, Hernandez,

Owen, Rooney.