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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Ferdinand issues battle cry
Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand has become an automatic choice for England
Slovakia v England | Sat 12 Oct, KO 1830 BST | Live on BBC1, BBC Radio Five Live and BBC Sport Online

Rio Ferdinand expects his England team-mates to get their Euro 2004 campaign off to a flyer in his absence.

The Manchester United centre-back will miss the games against Slovakia and Macedonia after undergoing keyhole surgery on Sunday on his right knee is likely to keep him sidelined for a month.

England play Slovakia on 12 October and Macedonia on 16 October.

"It's been niggling away for a while and something had to be done," Ferdinand told The Sun newspaper.

"It's been a stop-start season for me, what with my debut being delayed because of my ankle problem and now this. But it's better it gets sorted out now.

"I'm disappointed, gutted in fact, because everyone knows how much I love playing football and that England is very important to me.

"But I'm sure the lads will do the business. I'll be watching on television, cheering them all the way."

Ferdinand is almost certain to miss Manchester United's Champions League matches against Olympiakos and Maccabi Haifa at the end of October.

The club are hopeful of having him back in time for the derby clash with Manchester City on 9 November.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson said: "It's been bothering him for some time and we decided to do the operation now so that he will be available for most of the season."

Paul Newman, the FA's director of communications, said: "Sven-Goran Eriksson will be talking to the United medical staff on Monday."

England internationals David Dunn and Rio Ferdinand
Ferdinand enjoyed an outstanding World Cup

The timing of the operation is likely to re-kindle the debate over the demands of club and country although the FA said it did not regard the operation as a snub to Eriksson.

"If he needs a knee operation, he needs a knee operation," said Newman.

While the timing of Ferdinand`s operation suits United, because there is a break in the Premiership programme coming up, it could not be worse for Eriksson.

It is the second time this season that Ferdinand will be forced to miss a series of games because of injury.

He hurt an ankle on his debut for United in a friendly against Boca Juniors in August and missed the opening Champions League qualifier against Zalaegerszeg and the first two Premiership games of the season.

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Slovakia 1-2 England

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