Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes the return to fitness of defensive stalwart Rio Ferdinand has been like a new signing for his side.
As the Red Devils continue their pursuit of a domestic and European double, Ferdinand's inclusion in recent squads has given United an added impetus and extra reason for optimism.
The 32-year-old star has turned in a series of scintillating performances to help Manchester United on their way to the Champions League semi-final, with the first leg taking place in Germany against Schalke tonight.
Ferguson praised Ferdinand's return to form, and the impact he had particularly in his first game back after an extended period on the sidelines.
"Rio's ability showed itself in the first leg against Chelsea - he was absolutely immense," he said in yesterday's pre-match press conference.
"That experience and ability is vital in the situation we are in at the moment. He is fresh and ready to play and that is a big step forward for us."
Ferdinand has shown no signs of a recurrence of the back or calf problems that has plagued much of his season.
And an extended run in the first-team can only benefit Manchester United in their hunt for Barclays Premier League and Champions League glory.
Set to partner Nemanja Vidic in tonight's Champions League encounter, Ferdinand will be looking for another sterling performance to keep Manchester United in contention for the return leg at Old Trafford next week.
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