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Is Rio’s fitness becoming a real concern for club and country?

I remember the days when Michael Owen started missing games because of ‘precautionary’ reasons. With Owen already out for the season, Alex Ferguson will be sweating it out every time he sees Rio Ferdinand jump up for a header. Having already missed a large part of the season, Ferdinand was absent from the Carling Cup Final and missed England’s midweek friendly due to ‘precautionary’ reasons and it will be something that worries a lot of fans from here on in.

Ferdinand has been hampered by a back injury but insists there is no long term concern regarding it. Sceptics among us may believe otherwise.

Speaking to The Sun, he said: “This latest problem has only been a minor setback. It’s just been precautionary, me not playing, to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.

At 31, the Manchester United and England captain is not getting any younger. He has played just 35 of the last 95 games for United and England which has even led the likes of Gary Lineker to express his worry in his column for the Daily Mail, writing: “He has played so few games there must be serious doubts about whether the skipper will be able to lead his team in South Africa. Will he be there? My heart says Yes my head says No at the moment”

Ferdinand will be crucial for United in the run in for the Premier League title. This weekend’s game against Wolves again highlighted the importance of his partnership with Nemanja Vidic and showed how good it can be. Having kept out a fairly determined Wolves side, Ferguson, and presumably Capello, will be hoping that the centre back can stay fit from now until June.

The worry for United would be if this injury turns out to be one that does not go away. A back injury for a footballer can be a pretty annoying thing. With the amount of impact on it, especially for a defender, it could be something that persists until causing more damage and it might see Ferdinand sharing the physio’s bench with Owen for longer than expected.

England are better with Ferdinand. Matthew Upson’s slip against Egypt has also highlighted a certain weakness in England’s back line. The fact that the standard of replacements may not be good enough to win the World Cup will have worried fans and staff at Wembley Stadium. With Ashley Cole already a doubt, the last thing Capello needs is another of his first choice defenders going to South Africa without a run of games.

At the moment it is touch and go. Ferdinand is insistent that he is now injury free, sceptics seem to have their worries and the fans, well, we don’t know what to think. Time will tell I guess.

Article title: Is Rio’s fitness becoming a real concern for club and country?

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