Manchester United manager David Moyes insists Rio Ferdinand still has a part to play at the club, despite a lack of game time this season.
Ferdinand has started just seven Premier League matches in this campaign, six of those coming in the first two months of the season, with the last being in November's 2-2 draw at Cardiff City.
The 35-year-old has struggled with a multitude of injuries, most recently a knee problem, and with fellow centre-halves Jonny Evans and Phil Jones both taken off injured in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Stoke City, Moyes is struggling for options at the heart of the defence.
The Scot acknowledges that former Leeds United and West Ham defender Ferdinand has been nothing but a positive influence since he took over the reins from Alex Ferguson in the summer.
"Rio has made a great contribution, especially in the first half of the season," he said.
"I played him in nearly all the opening eight to 10 games.
"He was a big part in helping me to settle. He has competition at centre-half but he is very much valued and looked at as one of the senior players."
United host Fulham on Sunday and Moyes hinted that Ferdinand could be back in contention, although Nemanja Vidic is also available after serving a three-match suspension.
"Rio is back training," he said.
"He's back and we will continue to use Rio at the right times and the right moments."
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