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Fergie's fingers crossed over Rio's San Siro return

Alex Ferguson is crossing his fingers Rio Ferdinand's second comeback from a long-term back injury goes without a hitch.

The new England captain is set to make his Manchester United reappearance in tonight's Champions League clash with AC Milan at the San Siro, having served three games of a four-match domestic ban.

Of more importance than the suspension for taking a swipe at Hull's Craig Fagan -- and then getting an extra match bolted on for a 'frivolous' appeal -- is how Ferdinand's body reacts to the big-match atmosphere given he was out of action for more than three months prior to his initial return to action.

Fabio Capello is bound to be an interested observer given he has elevated Ferdinand to England skipper in the wake of John Terry's demise. But United's need is more immediate, which is why Ferguson is hoping for the best.


"I certainly hope he is all right until the end of the season," he said. "We have done a lot of work and he has too.

"Even non-sportsmen know how difficult back injuries can be but he has had no problem since he started back 10 weeks ago.

"He has done his core work, which has helped him and he will probably start."

Ferdinand's performance, as pivotal as it might be, is a side issue compared to the meeting with David Beckham.

Seven years have passed since Ferguson controversially caught Beckham in the face with a stray boot and subsequently sanctioned a £25m transfer to Real Madrid for the former England skipper, believing the massive publicity surrounding the now 34-year-old had gone beyond anything he could reasonably be expected to tolerate.

And, although peace has subsequently been made between the pair, it seems nothing much has changed about Ferguson's attitude, given the cool manner which he addressed the Beckham issue.

"Three seconds" was his initial response when quizzed about Beckham in the traditional pre-match press conference before adding: "David left seven years ago.

"You move on in life. That is what happens. This is a different team and different players.

"David has experience. He has over 100 caps for England and has played for Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.

"It is the same experience as the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Filipo Inzaghi and Clarence Seedorf. They all have that experience that Milan bring and I hope he is not celebrating at the end."