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Ferdinand "Torres is still a threat"

Rio Ferdinand refuses to be suckered into believing Fernando Torres is out of sorts.

Liverpool’s Spanish striker has scored three times against the Reds in his Anfield career.

But Torres’ fitness, form and commitment to the Merseysiders has come under scrutiny this season.

He has been dogged by injuries for the last two campaign and a knee op last May saw him struggle at the World Cup for eventual winners Spain.

But Ferdinand is ignoring the Torres tales of woe.

“People jump on the bandwagon. Players get injuries. He is a great player and has proved that to everybody,” said the United defender, who is set to start alongside Nemanja Vidic for the first time this season in tomorrow’s lunchtime showdown.

“Two months ago everyone was saying what a world-class player he is and one of the best strikers in the world, so to become a bad player overnight just doesn’t happen.

“I heard the pundits the other night hammering him. He has been injured for a long period of time and is just on his way back. You can’t expect him to be the same straight away.

“I’m under no illusions that if I play, I will be coming up against a top-class player. You would expect him to produce a world-class performance.”

Ferdinand himself has had to battle two seasons of back and groin problems.

Then his World Cup with England was wrecked following the training ground accident in the first pre-tournament session in South Africa.

He made his first comeback against Rangers on Tuesday night having recovered from the knee ligament injury suffered in the summer.

“It’s just nice to be back. It has been a long wait. It felt good on Tuesday to get a piece of the action and smell the atmosphere again,” he said.

“I’ve been working so hard in the gym and on the training ground and stuff, to make sure that when I did come back this time it would not be for one or two games but for a sustained period.

“It has been frustrating. I think I had a good run for 10-or-so years without injury but it has been a bit stop-start for the past two years, especially the last injury. Hopefully the nightmare is over now.”

Ferdinand’s absence for United’s opening four matches in the Premier League has cost him the captaincy at United.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson wants to end the succession of players wearing the skipper’s armband.

Nemanja Vidic had been handed the honour for all United’s matches before the Champions League game on Tuesday against Rangers.

With the Serb rested the returning Ferdinand was given the job again. Both are set to pair up against Liverpool tomorrow but Vidic will get the honour back and he will become the permanent captain.

“Vidic has been given the armband because he is available all the time,” explained Sir Alex.

Fergie made ten changes for the Euro tie with Rangers and wholesale changes are expected again with United lining up with a more recognised regular first choice XI.

The only major absentee will be Antonio Valencia following his horrific ankle break suffered against the Glaswegians.

But United have been able to report brighter news on the Ecuadorian with a possible return to action in February after a successful operation this week.