Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that he believes 33-year-old Rio Ferdinand can continue to play for United despite his age, stating that the defender has "no issues at all".
Ferdinand's £120,000-a-week contract at Old Trafford will expire next year, but Ferguson has faith that he will continue to play for the Red Devils. Speaking of the defender's fitness Ferguson said: "Rio's still young for a centre-back. I think it's all down to how he feels physically and what he is doing at the moment is good.
"I think from time to time he gets the odd tweak in his back and we have to manage it and look after it, [but other than that] he's adapting really well to the challenge of making sure he is fit and fresh to play in the games where we need him."
If Ferdinand were to resign with United he would be expected to take a £50,000-a-week pay reduction, but his contract would ensure that he would stay with the Manchester team into his late-30s. Before this news broke he was expected to leave the club this summer due to the recruiting of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, who were both rumoured as potential long-term replacements for Ferdinand.
Ferguson's confessions earlier in the season that the defender had "lost pace" and that he had "reached a decisive moment in [his] career" seemed to suggest that he was looking to oust Rio from the club, but it seems that the former England captain's influence in the locker room has made him reconsider.
"I keep thinking that I signed Rio three or four years ago," added the manager. "I forget he's been here for almost 10 years. He has taken on that role of the influential person in the dressing room. He's great with the players. He's brilliant.
"It is an advantage if you can keep the older players long enough for their influence to spread because in the modern game it's difficult to keep players for more than five or six years. It's not easy but the longer they stay here the better the influence spreads to them and they can take over from the older players as they disappear."
United are also expected to see the return of Nani, Vidic and Michael Owen in training this week, with Ferguson believing that Owen can still make a difference in their bid for the Premiership top spot despite having only played four games this season.
"He came back into our training a couple of weeks ago and then after one of the sessions he did some physical work with the sports science team and overdid it, so it knocked him back a few days," said the manager. "But he's back in sync again and he should be joining us this week.
"If you think about ever needing a player to score an important goal is there anyone better than Michael Owen? He will be a really welcome addition to our squad, even if it were to be for the last few games of the season."
United are set to play Fulham tonight (March 26) in the hope of regaining their position at the top of the league from rivals Manchester City.