Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand has had an injection in an attempt to ease his long-standing back complaint.

The 30-year-old has been out of action since the end of October, and although United manager Sir Alex Ferguson played down fears of a long-term absence at the time, Ferdinand has now missed 13 games, plus England's friendly defeat to Brazil in Qatar. While Ferguson insists it should "not be long" before the former West Ham centre-back is back in action, he also revealed there is "no light" at the end of the tunnel and admitted it is hard to put a timescale on when Ferdinand will again be available.

"We gave Rio an injection just over two weeks ago so we have to let that settle for a week then he can go back into the gym work and do some more core work," said Ferguson. "We are just hoping that pain goes away."

He added: "There is no light at the end of the tunnel and it is difficult to put a timescale on a back injury. But I don't think he is too far away."

At the launch of his new charitable Foundation last week, Ferdinand insisted his place at next summer's World Cup in South Africa was not in jeopardy.

It was an important statement, not only in terms of a health bulletin but also the positive attitude it betrayed.

Yet, as the Premier League season straddles its halfway point over the Christmas period, more important matches are looming. And Ferguson knows his £29.1million defender will want to be part of them.

"Rio is quite a composed and laid-back lad," said Ferguson. "He has never shown any effect of the injury from a mental standpoint.

"But I have no doubt he will be feeling it because he is a footballer and footballers want to play.

"He will be thinking about all sorts. The run-in to the league and important games coming up and he is missing them. It is not easy for him."

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