"Rio Ferdinand, I think, will be ready for next week [at Southampton]."

- Sir Alex Ferguson

24/08/2012 22:30, Report by A Marshall & G Thompson

Rio could return at Saints

Rio Ferdinand should be available for Manchester United's trip to Southampton, despite missing Saturday's Old Trafford encounter with Fulham.

The centre-back was injured in training ahead of the season opener at Everton but is set to ease the Reds' defensive problems. However, Jonny Evans, so impressive alongside Ferdinand for much of last term, has suffered a setback in his return from ankle surgery.

"Defenders have been having more injuries than the forward in recent years," said Sir Alex. "It is strange. You would think it was the other way around. We have a strong squad and we are going to use it. There will be opportunities for everyone to share in that and contribute to whatever we achieve this season. Phil Jones has started training. Chris Smalling is long term. Rio, I think, will be ready for next week. Evans was doing well but felt it in training on Sunday and hasn’t trained since. I'm not sure whether that is a long- or short-term setback."

In terms of the right-back slot, Antonio Valencia's stint in the position is only temporary as Rafael continues to work with the squad after being away with Brazil.

"Valencia can play anywhere," asserted Sir Alex. "He's a typical South American. He just loves playing. He is powerful and quick and can tackle. He can do most things. That is only short term. Rafael had been at the Olympics and had just come back but Antonio had been with the squad all the time and had been right-back on the tour."

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