Even if City are without several big-name strikers, United will still want to field a first-choice defence in Sunday’s hotly-anticipated Manchester derby but United manager Alex Ferguson will use todays training session at Carrington (Friday) to see if Rio Ferdinand can prove his fitness.

The central defensive stalwart made his first league appearance of the season only last weekend, when the Reds impressively won 3-1 at Tottenham Hotspur. But Rio then reported a groin problem in training the next day and consequently wasn’t risked in Tuesday night’s Champions League victory over Besiktas.

“The only concern I’ve got is Rio,” said Sir Alex in his pre-match press conference. “He missed the game on Tuesday and he was out before the Spurs match. Only one game back after injury is a concern – he needs a run of games to be at his maximum. He did some running on Monday but he wasn’t right.

“He has to do some positive work in training if he’s going to make the game on Sunday. We hope he’s there because you want all your big players available.” If Ferdinand fails the fitness test then Jonny Evans will deputise once again.