Ferdinand ruled out of Andorra game

September 1, 2006

MANCHESTER, England, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand will miss England's opening Euro 2008 qualifier against Andorra at Old Trafford, head coach Steve McClaren said on Friday.

Asked if Ferdinand was out of Saturday's game, after suffering a bruised toe in United's 2-1 Premier League win at Watford last weekend, McClaren told a news conference: 'I can definitely confirm that.'

McClaren will not risk Ferdinand's toe injury but is optimistic he will be available to face Macedonia in Skopje next Wednesday.

He said: 'Rio is continuing his rehab and he's back running. In this situation with a bruised toe in the beginning there is a lot of pain and then they heal rapidly within two or three days.

'We're hoping he gets over it and will be available for Wednesday.'

McClaren has also challenged his players to maintain the standards shown against Greece and ensure England climb back up the footballing ladder after the disappointment of the World Cup quarter-final exit exactly two months ago, on July 1.

He said: 'Six points from two games with Andorra and Macedonia is the target. That is the expectation and we have to make sure we perform and attain that. It is going to be two games in which we need to treat both opponents with respect.

'We need to do that because everyone knows in any professional sport upsets can happen. We have to make sure it doesn't during the next few days.

'We're looking for a positive performance. I said before Greece that we are not as good as we think we are. We need to go up the ladder again after improving against Greece.

'We need to become a great team. We're not that at the moment. Ultimately what we need on Saturday is a performance. We have to be patient. I've seen Andorra a few times and they could be tough to break down.'

McClaren is set to give another try-out to the Peter Crouch-Jermain Defoe partnership after they impressed up front against Greece.

Crouch will be looking to maintain his excellent record of eight goals in 12 appearances for his country.

McClaren said: 'Peter Crouch's record is phenomenal at international level and he provides something different. When he's come on as a substitute he has impressed and when he's played from the start he has scored goals.

'He played well with Jermain Defoe against Greece. Before that game people were worried about the strikers with Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney not available.

'But Andrew Johnson has also done well. I've noticed a difference in him each time he has come away with us. The move to Everton has really lifted him.'

Looking further ahead, McClaren saw a dividend for England in left back Ashley Cole's overnight transfer from Arsenal to champions Chelsea.

Cole will make up a quartet of England regulars at Stamford Bridge, playing right alongside England captain John Terry in defence and behind midfielders Joe Cole and Frank Lampard.

'If they're playing regularly in their clubs and forming partnerships, and if that's coming together with England, that's an advantage to me, to the team and to England,' McClaren said.

'Chelsea have recruited a very good left back. He plays for England and he plays next to John Terry. It's a big advantage.'