| 11.2°C Dublin


Alex Ferguson is aiming to restore Rio Ferdinand to Manchester United's defence at Newcastle to ease the pressure on under-fire goalkeeper David de Gea.

De Gea, an £18.3m signing from Atletico Madrid last summer, is expected to retain his place in the United goal at Newcastle United, despite a costly mistake in Saturday's 3-2 defeat against Blackburn, which led to the relegation-threatened club claiming all three points at Old Trafford.

The 21 year-old has endured a difficult start to life in English football with Manchester United, having made a number of high-profile errors during his 19 first-team outings.

While Denmark international Anders Lindegaard has impressed by keeping six clean sheets in seven games so far this season, conceding an average of just 0.14 goals a game, De Gea has been beaten 26 times while in goal for United.

Ferguson insisted last Friday, however, that he would continue his goalkeeping rotation policy by starting with De Gea against Blackburn and Newcastle.

Having backed De Gea publicly by suggesting he would play against Alan Pardew's team, it is unlikely that Ferguson will perform an about-turn by dropping the youngster in favour of Lindegaard.

But the anticipated return from injury of Ferdinand is regarded as key factor for De Gea, however, due to the England defender's experience and communication skills at the heart of the back four.

Ferdinand has been sidelined with a back problem that has forced the 33 year-old to miss United's last three league games, but Ferguson is hopeful that he will be fit to face Newcastle.

The former Leeds and West Ham defender had returned to form in recent weeks after being told by Ferguson that he could no longer be considered as a first-choice due to the emergence of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans.

But after enduring a nadir during the 6-1 defeat at home to Manchester City in October, Ferdinand admits that the trauma of that game has ultimately served the team and the back four well.

"I'll be honest, and it pains me to say it, but it was probably one of the best things that happened to us," Ferdinand said.

"We were playing a very open kind of football, but it made us sit back and think, 'we've got to tighten up all over the pitch.'

"If we do that, we have the players to exploit any other team when we go forward.

United and City meet again in the FA Cup third round at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday and, with both teams locked in a race for the title, Ferdinand insists that United's experience can give them the edge between now and May.

"It's all about doing it." Ferdinand said. "Many players in our squad have done things, but it's not about remembering the past, it's about trying to create more history and be a part of the history of this club."

Newcastle, meanwhile, have a slight doubt over former United midfielder Gabriel Obertan.

The Frenchman has a toe infection but is expected to feature.