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Ferdinand comes in from the cold

Published: Monday 20 September 2004, 6.57CET
Tonight's game between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC could be a landmark for three star players.

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Published: Monday 20 September 2004, 6.57CET

Ferdinand comes in from the cold

Tonight's game between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC could be a landmark for three star players.
Games between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC are always special occasions in their own right but for three players, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, tonight's English Premiership match at Old Trafford could represent a significant milestone in their careers.

Ferdinand's return
For Ferdinand the fixture is his first since his eight-month ban for failing to take a drugs test ended. The England defender is desperate to be thrown straight back into the fray and manager Sir Alex Ferguson has suggested he will waste no time in recalling him.

Giggs' 600th
For Giggs the game will be his 600th appearance in United colours, a landmark previously attained by only two players in the club’s history, Sir Bobby Charlton (759 games) and Bill Foulkes (688) while for Rooney it could be his first. Ferguson might try to take some of the attention away from Ferdinand by handing the €29.6m teenager a place on the bench even though he is still not 100 per cent fit after his foot injury.

Rio's task
Yet the spotlight will fall mostly on Ferdinand who has been missing since January and was also forced to sit out UEFA EURO 2004™. Sir Alex believes he can help amend the worst start to a Premiership season for the Old Trafford club who have taken only six points from their first five games.

Continuity brings results
"What I think we need is to get a consistent back four
playing again," said Ferguson. "In the 1994 [double-winning] team the back four never changed and last year, up until Rio went away, the back four never changed and we got the results that justifies that continuity. Rio has done fantastically well. You need a lot of patience and sacrifice because after training every day, you don't have the joy of playing on a Saturday."

'Big moment'
There’s no doubt the loss of their record €46.9m signing hit United hard while Ferdinand has himself told the Sun newspaper: "I cannot tell you how much I've been looking forward to this day. Whether or not I'm picked to play against Liverpool it is a big moment. There is definitely a debt of honour to the boss and I intend to repay him by putting in top-class performances. It has been very frustrating to be out for as long as I have."

Playing it cool
Spanish manager Rafael Benítez faces his biggest domestic test says taking the reins at Liverpool but knows his team have a good record at Old Trafford, winning 1-0 there in three of the last four seasons. He is aware of the rivalry between the sides but tried to distance himself from it.

Benitez relaxed
"I don't want to think about the rivalry because it is important not to feel the pressure and be relaxed," Benítez said. "A manager needs to be quiet and use his brain, not his spirit. The spirit is for the players."

Last updated: 20/09/04 23.58CET

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