LONDON (Reuters) -- Rio Ferdinand is likely to return for Manchester United at Stoke City on Saturday after manager Alex Ferguson said he needed experience against Tony Pulis's combative outfit.

The England centre back has started only two of five Premier League matches for the leaders this term and missed last weekend's 3-1 win against Chelsea with a calf strain.

The emergence of young players Phil Jones and Chris Smalling has threatened his starting spot but with Smalling doubtful for the Saturday's clash with a groin problem, Ferdinand should step back in for the champions.

"I'm hoping Rio will be okay for Saturday," Ferguson told "When you go to Stoke you need a bit of experience."

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