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United sweat over Ferdinand's Champions League fitness

sports Updated: Mar 08, 2009 18:21 IST
AFP
United sweat over Ferdinand's Champions League fitness

Sir Alex Ferguson faces an anxious wait on the fitness of Rio Ferdinand ahead of Manchester United's Champions League clash with Inter Milan on Wednesday.

The centre-back left Craven Cottage here Saturday wearing a protective support after injuring his ankle during United's commanding 4-0 FA Cup quarter-final win over Fulham.

Ferdinand had been forced to withdraw at half-time with United already in a comfortable two-goal lead and manager Ferguson admits he is uncertain whether the player will recover in time for the second leg clash with Italian giants Inter at Old Trafford.

That last 16 tie is finely poised after a scoreless draw in the teams' first meeting in the San Siro.

Ferguson said England defender Ferdinand's importance to his side's hopes of reaching the quarter-finals of the competition, and so keeping alive their hopes of winning five trophies in a season, could not be under-estimated.

"Ferdinand is a concern for us. He went over on his ankle and we will have to wait and see how he is," Ferguson said. "We just hope he makes it because he is so important for us."

Ferguson also faces a selection dilemma up front following Carlos Tevez's outstanding display against Fulham that was capped by two first-half goals.

With Dimitar Berbatov and Cristiano Ronaldo back in contention after being rested, and Wayne Rooney proving his fitness following a recent hamstring injury, Ferguson has an enviable problem as he attempts to put one over long-time rival and Inter boss Jose Mourinho.

"Carlos scored two superb goals, he was a jack in the box all day. He has great energy," Ferguson said.

"My biggest concern at the moment is picking the right team because I am having to leave world class players out. I only hope they recognise that at the end of the season all of their great contributions will have been appreciated.

"I took Rooney off in the second half because he is just coming back from that hamstring problem and we didn't want to take any chances."

Second half goals from Rooney and Park Ji-Sung completed a routine win and booked United's place in the FA Cup semi-finals for a record 26th time.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was frustrated that his side's early good work was thrown away by poor defending at a corner that allowed Tevez to score the opening goal.

Hodgson admitted that there was little hope for his side once United had gone ahead and agreed it was possible Ferguson's side would complete a clean sweep of honours this season.

"We started well but you cannot afford to fall behind against United because defensively they are so good," Hodgson said.

"And when we were two down before half-time, it was always going to be very difficult for us to get back into the game.

"It's possible they could win everything," the former Inter boss added.

"The most difficult test could come in the Champions League and Sir Alex will be keen to get through against Inter this week."

Hodgson said it was important Fulham now focused on maintaining their place in the Premier League.