Manchester United FC's Rio Ferdinand faces a long lay off after he undergoes surgery on a troublesome knee injury tomorrow.
The former West Ham United FC and Leeds United AFC defender is certain to miss United's game against Everton FC on Monday and England's EURO 2004™ qualifying games against Slovakia in Bratislava and F.Y.R. Macedonia in England. He is also extremely doubtful for United's UEFA Champions League matches against Olympiakos Piraeus FC and Maccabi Haifa FC at the end of October.
United confirmed tonight that 23-year-old Ferdinand will go under the surgeon’s knife tomorrow. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that Ferdinand had been struggling with an injury to his right knee: "The problem has been bothering Rio for some time now and we have decided to have the operation now to leave him free for as much of the season as possible."
O'Shea steps in
The blow of losing Ferdinand will be tempered by the impressive form of young Irish centre-half John O'Shea. Ferguson said: "The presence of Rio has been very important to us and we will miss him. When you put his experience alongside Laurent Blanc I think there is an assurance there, but the good thing for us is that the boy O'Shea is catching Rio fast."
While the timing of Ferdinand`s operation suits United, because there is a break in the English Premiership programme coming up, it could not be worse for England boss Sven-Göran Eriksson. Had United delayed the operation, Ferdinand would have been certain to play in both Group 7 games.
In Ferdinand's absence England are likely to turn to Gareth Southgate as a partner for Arsenal FC's Sol Campbell while Leeds United FC's Jonathan Woodgate, who is expected to return from injury against Aston Villa FC tomorrow, is another contender.
Football Association (FA) spokesman Paul Newman said: "We knew nothing about this but a knee injury is a knee injury. Sven will meet with United's medical staff tomorrow to discuss the situation." Eriksson is due to name his England squad tomorrow night.
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