Midweek Sport - - TV GUIDE - By JON GRE­ANEY

RIO FER­DI­NAND is set to be­come a bit-part player at Old Traf­ford af­ter be­ing dumped for Manch­ester United’s trip to Ben­fica.

The de­fender has not trav­elled to Por­tu­gal as United open up their Cham­pi­ons League group cam­paign at the Sta­dium of Light.

And with young­sters Chris Smalling and Phil Jones (left) emerg­ing as stars, Fer­di­nand may have to get used to sit­ting in the stands or on the bench.

The 32-year-old has been plagued by in­juries over re­cent sea­sons and missed out on cap­tain­ing Eng­land in their 2010 World Cup cam­paign.


Rio is not be­lieved to have suf­fered a fresh in­jury, with man­ager Sir Alex Ferguson in­stead rest­ing him af­ter he played 90 min­utes for the first time this sea­son against Bolton on Satur­day.

And that could spell a huge shift-change in United’s de­fence, with Rio be­ing

used spar­ingly by his boss much like fel­low se­nior pros Ryan Giggs, 37, and Paul Sc­holes, 36 – who re­tired last sea­son.

Mid­week Sport’s mole at Old Traf­ford said: “It looks like this is the end of Rio be­ing an au­to­matic firstchoice for Fergie.

“His in­juries have been a prob­lem for a few sea­sons and the man­ager wants to es­tab­lish a younger de­fence that will play and de­velop to­gether for a long time.

“Jones and Smalling have been su­perb since com­ing in as re­place­ments and that’s not good news for Rio.”

The de­vel­op­ment could also af­fect Fer­di­nand’s Eng­land fu­ture.

Man­ager Fabio Capello dropped Chelsea’s Frank Lam­pard from the re­cent Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fier in Bul­garia due to poor club form. The Ital­ian won’t look kindly on Ferdi not play­ing week in, week out at Old Traf­ford.

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