Why Rio Ferdinand's Future Lies Away from Manchester United

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand celebrates after scoring against Swansea City during their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday May 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Associated Press

Rio Ferdinand’s future at Manchester United was the subject of speculation this morning.

It was initially reported that he would not be attending the warm-weather training David Moyes has planned for the squad, per Neil Custis of The Sun (h/t to the Independent's Jack De Menezes). However, according to the Daily Mirror's Chris Richards, Ferdinand will be going.

Custis' report claims that not only will he not fly out, but that Manchester United are preparing a statement for Thursday. It is thought that Ferdinand’s future will be discussed further then. 

Moyes, meanwhile, has rubbished the report, while Ferdinand reacted on Twitter in his own inimitable fashion.

Must be another slow news day. come on neil custis get ya head out ya Y-fronts!

— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) February 11, 2014

Rio Ferdinand has had a wonderful career at Manchester United. Having signed for a record transfer fee in 2002, the intervening 12 years have seen him win six Premier League titles, two league cups, five Community Shields, a World Club Cup and the Champions League.

The pairing of Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic formed the solid core of a defence, which allowed Edwin van der Sar to set a remarkable clean sheet record in the 2008-09 season.

PAUL THOMAS/Associated Press/Associated Press

The pair perfectly complemented each other, Vidic a towering force of nature, afraid of nothing on the pitch. Ferdinand an exceptional reader of the game, rarely panicked, except in the odd momentary lapse of concentration.

The perfect combination of grit and fluency, at their peak they helped United reach three Champions League finals in four years.

The peak, sadly, is not now. In the earliest phase of David Moyes’s tenure he relied heavily on Vidic and Ferdinand. Ferdinand started the first six competitive fixtures this season, a run which culminated in a heavy defeat at the hands of Manchester City.

Per BBC Sport's Phil McNulty, Sergio Aguero was described as having "tormented" United’s defenders.  

In 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that Ferdinand needed to "rearrange his game" given that he had lost his "electric yard" of pace. Given that Ferdinand played a central role in United’s success last season, it can be argued that he was successful at doing that.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 12:  Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson embraces Rio Ferdinand following the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on May 12, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Ale
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Ferguson used Ferdinand sparingly, ensuring he had plenty of rest, the Scot using his experience with squad rotation, to extend the length of Ferdinand’s career at the top level.

Moyes’s initial reluctance to rotate his ageing central defenders may have contributed to how much damage Aguero was able to do to them. Ferdinand looked tired in that game, understandable given how much more football he was being expected to play.

Ferdinand has been a peripheral figure at United since that game. He was also the first player to publicly express any dissatisfaction with the Moyes era, saying during a video package on BT Sport (h/t to the Daily Mail) that he was being turned into a "madman" by not knowing until immediately before the game whether he would be selected.

He could probably have saved himself a good deal of anxiety given how rare his selection has been.

Transfer rumours have long linked Ferdinand with a move to the MLS, per David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror

If he does not retire from football, given Ferdinand’s business interests and unremitting determination to sell people hats with a number on them, a move to the States might be ideal for "Brand-Rio."

MOSCOW - MAY 21:  Wes Brown and Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United celebrate victory following the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Shaun Botteril
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

He will be missed by many when he leaves United, not so much for the player he is now, but the one he was in his pomp.

As with so much that has happened in the last year, it feels like the end of a remarkable era.


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