Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Welcome Back Rio - Carrick; Ferdinand 'Has Big Presence'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Welcome Back Rio - Carrick; Ferdinand 'Has Big Presence'

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Stone

MICHAEL Carrick is delighted that his England team-mate Rio Ferdinand will be around to aid Manchester United's bid to reach the Champions League final tonight.

Sir Alex Ferguson feared Ferdinand would miss the second leg of United's semi-final against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium after coming off at Old Trafford last week clutching his ribs.

Those fears intensified when Ferdinand started coughing up blood in the home dressing room, prompting an overnight stay in hospital.

Yet it transpired the reaction was caused by a bruised lung suffered in collision with Edwin van der Sar, with Xrays revealing no break as Ferguson had first thought.

Ferdinand did miss Saturday's win at Middlesbrough.

However, he was able to train yesterday and no one was more delighted than Wallsend-born Carrick when Ferguson declared his pounds 29.1m defender fit for battle.

"Rio has grown," said Carrick of his former West Ham team-mate. "He has the experience of playing at the top level for a number of years. Only certain players in the squad have the presence he has. It makes a difference when he is there." Ferguson was equally delighted, knowing a clean sheet will be enough to take United to Rome for a May 27 meeting with either Chelsea or Barcelona.

Ferdinand is certain to partner Nemanja Vidic in central defence, with John

O'Shea occupying one of the full-back slots.

With Ferguson declaring his belief Patrice Evra will shrug off a leg injury, O'Shea is likely to remain on the right, although the Republic of Ireland star could move to the left if United are forced to make a change, with Gary Neville taking over the right-sided berth.

As they had conceded just one goal on their European travels all season, at Celtic in the group phase, few are expecting Arsenal to get the three goals they would require if United can get one.

However, in keeping clean sheets in the knock-out stage against Inter Milan and FC Porto, United's defence has set a standard Ferguson is anxious should be maintained.

"It is a different game nowadays," reflected Ferguson. …

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