RIO Ferdinand is to be offered the chance to extend his Manchester United career into his late thirties after re-establishing himself in Alex Ferguson's first team following an early-season warning that he had lost his first-choice status. But it will come at a price.
Ferdinand's current £115,000-a-week salary is likely to be reduced substantially, perhaps by as much as £50,000 per week, to reflect his age and injury record, but the added security of a further year at United would be expected to compensate for any revised agreement.
Ferdinand, who will be 34 in November, is expected to partner Jonny Evans at centre-half against Fulham tonight as United aim to open up a three-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
The former England captain had been expected to leave Old Trafford this summer, with Ferguson recruiting Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as long-term replacements over the past 18 months.
But 10 years after completing a £30 million deal to sign Ferdinand from Leeds United, United are now ready to reward the defender by opening talks for a one-year contract extension before the turn of the year.
"Rio is adapting really well to the challenge of making sure he is fit and fresh to play in the games we need him," Ferguson said. "I think it's all down to how he feels physically within himself and what he is doing at the moment is good.
"He has no issues at all. From time to time, he gets the odd tweak in his back and we have to manage it and look after it. But it hasn't surprised me in the sense that he's still young for a centre-back.
"In normal terms, you would expect a centre-back, with his athleticism, to play well into their thirties anyway.
"But he had the back problem, so we've had to manage that and by managing it properly, he has adapted really well to it.
"He's great with the players. If you can keep the players long enough for the influence to spread - because in the modern game, as we know, it's difficult to keep players for more than five or six years - it makes a difference."