Rio Ferdinand has admitted it could be another five games before he gets back to his peak.
The Manchester United defender has finally recovered from the knee injury that wrecked his World Cup, turning in a typically stylish performance in Tuesday's disappointing goalless draw with Rangers.
Ferdinand is expected to keep his place for Sunday's north-westderby clash against Liverpool, when he should get the chance to resumehis central defensive partnership with Nemanja Vidic and find outwhether Sir Alex Ferguson views him as the successor to Gary Neville ascaptain.
But while the 31-year-old is hoping to speed up the acclimatisationprocess, he is wary of how long it will take to find top form again.
'I don't know how long it will take me to get back to my peak,' he said.
'I have never been out and doing nothing for this length of time.
'From what I gather it is normally up to six games before playerssee the best of themselves. Fingers crossed I can do it in two.'
This year will not be remembered with any affection by Ferdinand.
His appearance against Rangers was only his 14th in a United shirtso far this year and whilst he did play twice for England at the end ofthe season, the freak accident he suffered in a collision with EmileHeskey on the first day of World Cup training wrecked his dream ofappearing in South Africa.
Not that Ferdinand is spending too long worrying about that. He said: 'I have got over the frustrations of the injury.
'I am trying to look forward and hoping to play some part in the games we have coming up.'
Agony: Antonio Valencia is expected to be out for the whole of this season
The same is also true of Wayne Rooney after his recent problems in his private life.For Antonio Valencia though, there is only a painful period of rehabilitation ahead following an operation to mend the ankle he broke against Rangers.
United are yet to offer their prognosis on the South American, although the Ecuador camp believe their number one player will be out for at least six months.
'After arriving from Wigan he had a great first season and was looking to push on this year. That is why the injury is a real blow,' said Darren Fletcher.
'He is a strong character and a good lad. He has real determination and works hard. He will have a long future at Manchester United.'
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