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Man United star Ferdinand ignores club slump

RIO Ferdinand won't let Manchester United's unexpected Premier League slump distract him from trying to help England win its fifth consecutive World Cup qualifying match.

United has seen a seven-point lead slip to one after a 2-0 defeat at Fulham followed a 4-1 defeat at home to Liverpool. A tough match against fifth place Aston Villa comes up on Sunday and, by then, United could have slipped to second because second place Liverpool visits Fulham on Saturday.

But Ferdinand says that won't be on his mind until after England's game against Ukraine at Wembley today.

Asked which was the most important game of the week, he replied: "This game."

"Anything else will be put to one side until we've finished this game (against Ukraine). We've got a big game before (the Villa match)."

Ferdinand has recovered from a lingering groin injury to partner John Terry at the heart of the England defense as the team hopes to build on its best ever start of four group victories in a row.

England's performances under manager Fabio Capello has given the team a great chance to qualify for the 2010 World Cup a year after it failed to reach Euro 2008 under Steve McClaren. Ferdinand puts the improved form down to the strict disciplinary regime brought in by the veteran Italian coach, who led AC Milan, AS Roma, Juventus and Real Madrid to multiple titles.

"There can be no complacency in this squad," Ferdinand said. "You'd have said Michael Owen was bang on certain to get 100 caps two or three years ago and that it would be a given that he'd be in every squad when he was fit.

"But this manager has come in and he's seeing things from a different angle and, if you're not fit enough, or you're not playing games, or you're not on form, you won't get in the squad and I think it's right. You don't win what (Capello's) won by having a lot of sentiment. I think it's good. It keeps the hunger in your belly, the desire and the passion."

After 89 appearances, Owen has been repeatedly left out of the England squad by Capello because of fitness problems and a lack of consistent appearances for Newcastle even though he has scored 40 goals in national team colors. Capello still left him out of the squad even though three strikers picked up injuries during Saturday's 4-0 victory over Slovakia in a friendly and another was hurt during training ahead of the Ukraine game.

Ferdinand said it showed that no one was guaranteed a place in the team.

"If you get into the situation where people are almost not even worried about the squad coming out and they're almost expecting always to be in the squad, then that's a bad place to start from," Ferdinand said. "It's better if people are on their toes about whether they are playing."

Ferdinand said there was a spell under previous managers when some England players were automatically selected no matter how badly they were playing.

"If you look back over the last 20 or 25 years, you could say there have been four or five players who it didn't really matter if they played poorly," he said. "They'd always get the shirt. You can't say anyone in this team is guaranteed to be in the team."


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