Rio is content in his surprise new role

RIO FERDINAND has declared his willingness to take on a midfield role for club and country.

Manchester United’s injury crisis forced Alex Ferguson to push Ferdinand forward from his usual defensive slot against Wolves on Sunday.

The Londoner impressed so much atht former United man Paul Ince immediately called on Sven-Goran Eriksson to hand the 27-year-old the midfield holding role for England which Ledley King has previously performed.

Such a move would resolve Eriksson’s selection headache in central defence, where Ferdinand, John Terry and Sol Campbell are vying for three starting slots.

While the Swede will not have a chance to consider such a move until England tackle Uruguay at Anfield on March 1, he could get another chance to see how Ferdinand performs in the role at Ewood Park tonight.

With Alan Smith suspended, Ferguson may have little option but to continue with his Ferdinand experiment, particularly as the arrival of £7m Serbian Nemanja Vidic and recent impressive form of Wes Brown offer the United boss far greater options in defence.

And, although he would prefer to stick with his defensive duties, Ferdinand would happily continue in midfield - for United and England - as long as he is asked.

Confirmation that Paul Scholes will miss the remainder of the campaign after contracting swelling behind his eye forced Ferguson to scour Europe looking for a potential replacement. But reported attempts to sign Swiss skipper Johann Vogel from AC Milan and Reggiana’s Paraguay international Carlos Paredes on loan proved fruitless, leaving Ferguson to limp to the end of the season with a reduced squad, but one he can at least afford.

Ferguson is expected to recall Fletcher, a move that could see Louis Saha drop to the bench despite the Frenchman netting an impressive seven times in his last 10 games. Cristiano Ronaldo should be fit after a minor knee injury kept him out of the trip to Molineux.

United will be hoping to get the same result they enjoyed against Blackburn in the Carling Cup last week, but this time without the ugly scenes in the tunnel which marred the contest.

Sparks always seem to fly when Robbie Savage is around and if Ferdinand is called on to play in midfield, his duel with the Welshman should be worth watching following last week’s angry shoving match.

But it is Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel who concerns Ferguson the most. The giant American kept the Red Devils at bay for long spells in last week’s 2-1 win, producing a string of fine saves, including a Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty.

Friedel was also on top form in their Premiership meeting in September. That time Rovers came out on top, meaning victory for the hosts tonight would see them record a league double over United for the first time in 75 years.

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