Rio calm on first-team return
Although Chris Smalling has far exceeded expectations as Ferdinand battled back to fitness after suffering a calf injury during the warm-up ahead of Manchester United's defeat at Wolves on February 5, Sir Alex Ferguson viewed the 32-year-old's experience as vital to his side's chances of victory against Chelsea. The theory was proved to be spot on as Ferdinand helped to subdue Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, earn United their first away win over the Blues since 2002 and claim a precious first-leg lead ahead of the quarter-final return at Old Trafford on Tuesday. Even someone who has been through as much as Ferdinand could have been forgiven a few butterflies under such pressure. The Londoner insists there were none. "I didn't feel any pressure or nerves," he said. "You are doing what you love. I wake up every morning wanting to play football. "To come out and play at stadiums like Stamford Bridge does not make me nervous, it makes me want to try and get the right result for my team. "When you have played a lot of games and seen all these situations there are not many surprises in these games. "I have seen a lot of things and if you can't deal with that at this stage of your career then you never will." Indeed, it appeared Ferdinand was the least surprised to be back in action, even though Ferguson claimed only three weeks ago the former England skipper could miss the remainder of the season as his recovery was taking longer than hoped. "I was told a certain amount of time and I have come back a little bit quicker," he said. "I was confident I would come back. Now it is about maintaining that." Coming out on top in a personal duel with Torres is bound to help, even though the Spain striker is lacking in confidence and is still waiting for his first Chelsea goal. The former Liverpool star resorted to a couple of dives last night, which did not go down well with Ferdinand, even though he accepts it is now part of the game. "In the first-half I felt Torres went to ground too easily," he said. "But things like that happen. You have to get on with it." Ferdinand was close enough to know Ramires was not diving when he went down in the box under Patrice Evra's desperate lunge in stoppage time, although, like Ferguson, he is making no apology for that bit of good fortune. "We got a bit of luck there but we have been done a few times here on big decisions, so it is swings and roundabouts," he declared. There were enough defiant United performances to ensure Wayne Rooney had plenty of competition for the man-of-the-match prize. Ferdinand, central defensive partner Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick were amongst those deserving a special praise. So too Edwin van der Sar, who is enjoying a glorious end to his career, which the United camp now accept is inevitable, despite their best attempts to reverse his retirement decision. "There have been a few shouts to try and get him to change his mind but Edwin is adamant," said Ferdinand. "He has had a fantastic career. Good luck to him in whatever he decides to do." Once Saturday's Premier League encounter with Fulham is out of the way, United can focus on the Chelsea rematch, at least knowing Rooney is free to play in that despite his absence at the weekend and the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City after his two-match suspension was confirmed. Under normal circumstances, United would regard themselves as strong favourites to book a last-four meeting with either Inter Milan, or almost certainly, German challengers Schalke. However, the Red Devils have met Chelsea often enough in the past to be wary, knowing a repeat of the 2-1 scoreline to the Blues on their last visit to Old Trafford 12 months ago will take Carlo Ancelotti's men through. "Of course the job is not done," said Ferdinand. "Tuesday is another game. If it is as open as the first one was maybe that will suit us. "But we will be setting our stall out to win. We are a positive side. We don't go into matches to draw."