Rio Ferdinand still has a major role to play at Manchester United, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 32-year-old has already suffered two minor injuries this term, which together with the fine form of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans during United's exceptional start to the campaign has led many to conclude Ferdinand's 10th season at United will be his last.
"Rio's [injury] record is fact," said Ferguson. "We wish it was better but we use him to our advantage when we have him available because you cannot dismiss the experience he brings."
He added: "He missed a couple [of matches] after Bolton and one after West Brom, but I don't mind that because with the squad we have got we utilise him the way we want to."
Despite the frequency of his absences, Ferdinand always seems to find a way of reaching top form instantly when he does return.
"He walked through the game at Bolton," Ferguson added. "We are absolutely delighted with Smalling, Evans and Jones. The three of them have been absolutely magnificent. They are the long-term future.
"But there are occasions when you bring in the experience Rio offers because it does make a difference. The young players know that.
"They also know there will be a time when they are left out for the right reasons and knowing they will get better the next time they come in."