HULL, May 25 – Sir Alex Ferguson is confident Rio Ferdinand will be fit for Manchester United's Champions League final against Barcelona despite being forced to leave him out of his side's victory at Hull.United, already crowned champions for the third successive season, completed their domestic campaign with a 1-0 win at the KC Stadium courtesy of Darron Gibson’s impressive first half goal, while Hull avoided making an instant return to the Championship after Newcastle crashed at Aston Villa.
But it was Ferdinand’s fitness that occupied United minds after the match. The England centre-back has missed the last four games with a calf problem and has been undergoing intensive treatment in a bid to get him fit for Wednesday’s final in Rome.
He trained with the United squad on Saturday and was expected to play some part in his side’s trip to Humberside but was left out of Ferguson’s squad altogether on Sunday.
Ferguson, however, remains upbeat about the England international’s chances of being fit as United look to secure their fourth major trophy of the season and become the first team to win back-to-back European titles in the Champions League era.
"Rio trained on Saturday and he trained this morning (Sunday), so he is getting there. He should be okay for Wednesday," Ferguson said.
Ferguson has insisted that he would be reluctant to select Ferdinand if he had not managed to get some sort of football under his belt at Hull.
Ferdinand himself admits Ferguson will be ruthless with his team selection and knows his place in the side is far from certain.
He said: "It’s down to the manager if he sees I’m ready to play in the game against Barcelona. So the manager will make a decision on what’s best for the team. He won’t care about anyone’s feelings or anything like that and no one would ask him to anyway."
Rarely has a defeat been celebrated with such joy as was the case at the KC Stadium. Newcastle’s demise at Villa Park meant this result was irrelevant and Hull can now start planning for a second successive campaign in the Premier League.
The impact this could have on the city in general is potentially massive according to Nick Barmby, Hull-born striker who has been instrumental in keeping Brown’s team out of the relegation zone.
The former England international said: "It’s a great day for everyone and especially for the fans.
"It means everything to them. This was all about this football club staying in the Premier League, no matter how we achieved it.
"We heard the cheers from the stands which told us that Aston Villa had scored and this is what sets the Premier League apart from the rest.
"We are just delighted because we can have another crack at the Premier League. It will mean everything to the city in general.
"The people who live here can watch Premier League football again and watch some of the best players in the world come to Hull. The city has had some bad times but this really does make a difference. It gives kids something to look forward to."
Tigers boss Brown was kept up to speed with developments at the other games by two of his injured players – club captain Ian Ashbee and midfielder Jimmy Bullard.
He said: "They were both on telephones behind the dugout. It was nerve-wracking towards the end but it was fully deserved.
"We played well in the first half but the goal was a wonder strike from outside the box – we were always climbing a mountain from then on.
"No-one can question the quality of the United team – it was there for all to see."