United boost as new training regime eases Ferdinand's back problem
Rio Ferdinand has adopted a new training regime in an effort to banish for good the back problem that threatened his participation in the World Cup finals.
The defender is due to face Fulham at Old Trafford tomorrow, when he is hoping to rack up a third consecutive appearance for Manchester United for only the second time this season.
Ferdinand's back forced him to miss 19 competitive fixtures for United during his three months on the sidelines and his slow recovery had prompted concerns over his ability to overcome the injury fully.
A lumbar injection in December helped accelerate Ferdinand's recovery, however, and the 31-year-old believes that he has now emerged from his injury problems after changing his training programme to include lengthier rest periods, conditioning work and tailored exercises aimed at avoiding a repeat of his back worries.
Ferdinand said: "I have had to adapt my training regime since I got my injury, but I would have had to do that anyway because, once you get to 30, you have to adapt your training.
"I don't think negatively (about the injury). I just think about staying on the pitch and that is what I aim to do.
"It is still taking time, but the more games you play, the better you feel and I am in that category."
Ferdinand's return from injury in January was immediately followed by a four-game suspension for violent conduct. He then suffered a setback when a recurrence of the back problem forced him to miss two United games, including the Carling Cup final, and England's friendly against Egypt last week.
United manager Alex Ferguson said: "It's a great boost having Rio and Nemanja Vidic back. When I see the two of them together, there is a sense of security that we have been fighting to get all season."
Ferguson has raised the prospect of club captain Gary Neville being offered a new contract this summer following his impressive performance in the 4-0 victory against AC Milan.
He said: "We don't play Gary every week because of the nature of his body, but on Wednesday he was outstanding. He showed incredible drive for a 35-year-old.
"He is a great example to other players and I can certainly see him playing next season."
Ferguson, meanwhile, has insisted that Owen Hargreaves will return to action, 18 months after his last competitive appearance for United, with an outing in the reserves against Burnley next Thursday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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