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Rio: No early parties

Rio Ferdinand will not make an assessment until Christmas about whether Manchester United can look forward to a season of promise.

A League Cup defeat at Chelsea apart, it has been an excellent few weeks for the Red Devils.

Four successive Premier League wins have taken Alex Ferguson's men to the top of the table, while on Wednesday they maintained a 100pc record in the Champions League to book their place in the last 16 as group winners despite still having two matches remaining.

The Red Devils could certainly be forgiven a self-congratulatory pat on the back as they head to Aston Villa this evening.

But Ferdinand believes it is far too early for that.

"I wouldn't say we are over-happy," he said.

"We are in the position we want to be.

"We set our stall out at the beginning of the Champions League to make sure we qualify comfortably. We have done that with games to spare.

"But in the league, Christmas is when we really evaluate it.

"If we are in the same position then as we are now, we would say it is a good start to the season.

"But it is still too early to look at the league table and start singing and dancing."

At a time when United's defensive resources have been stretched to the limit, Ferdinand's fitness has held up.

The 33-year-old made his 10th appearance of the season when he came on as a replacement for Jonny Evans in midweek and, thankfully, it seems an answer has been found to those back problems which dogged him for so long.

"I have not been speaking about my injuries over the past few months because there haven't been any," said Ferdinand.

"Over the last 18 months I have managed it really well. The club have helped me. It is testament to the medical and science department that they have been able to help me along.

"It means I have been playing consistently, week in, week out.

"If the manager needs me to play in the midweek games, that is fine as well.

"I am more than capable of doing that, as I have proved over the past 18 months."

With Nemanja Vidic sidelined for virtually 12 months following two lots of knee surgery, Ferdinand has developed a useful partnership with Jonny Evans, who is closing in on 150 United appearances.

"Jonny is really maturing," he said. "It is wrong to judge defenders when they are 21 or 22. You have to look beyond that. Wait until they have played 100 games, then see where they are at. Jonny is at that level now.

"He has been playing every week for the last year or so. We are reaping the benefits of that.

"He is a good reader of the game. He is good on the ball and enjoys defending, which is the most important part of it.

"He has a great Manchester United career ahead of him."