Manchester United reserve-team boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists Rio Ferdinand can be thrown straight into first-team action after the defender came through last night’s second-string clash with Oldham.
It was the first time Ferdinand had been in action since he suffered a major knee ligament injury in a freak collision with Emile Heskey on the first day of World Cup training with England in South Africa.
The injury wrecked the 31-year-old’s hopes of captaining his country on the greatest stage and also resulted in him missing the opening three games of United’s Barclays Premier League challenge, plus the start of England’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
However, it seems Ferdinand is now on track to face Everton at Goodison Park on September 11 after a typically stylish performance in the low-key arena of Bower Fold in Stalybridge.
Solskjaer moved quickly to dispel any fears that Ferdinand’s premature departure was down to a recurrence of the injury.
For a player who has struggled badly for fitness over the past two years, during which he has missed 15 England games alone, Ferdinand is desperate for an injury-free run.
And Solskjaer confirmed he is raring to go.
“There was no problem whatsoever,” he said.
“It was always planned that he would play 45 minutes. I am not sure he needs any more games. Rio is a naturally fit lad.
“Today was about distances and getting tighter to the ball. Now he is available for selection again.
“Rio is always the same player,” said Solskjaer. “It is a while since he has played but he was still calm.
“He has got through an important 45 minutes, straight after two very hard training sessions yesterday and the day before so we are delighted with him.”
Goalless when Ferdinand ended his contribution, United eventually emerged triumphant in a Manchester Senior Cup tie watched by Paul Scholes when Federico Macheda lashed home a superb left-footed strike in the latter stages to seal a 2-1 win.
Aside from the result and Ferdinand’s return, Alex Ferguson will doubtless be interested to learn of a full 90 minutes for Brazilian midfielder Anderson, who is on his way back from a cruciate operation.