Rio Ferdinand Is Past His Best but He's Still Valuable to Manchester United

Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentApril 14, 2014

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For a game in which only one statistic really matters, football has become dominated by numbers.

There are websites dedicated to recording passes, shots, tackles and crosses. And each Premier League team employs a whole department of performance analysts who are paid to make sense of the data.

Some numbers are revealing. Most managers will want to know if their central midfielder has the pass completion rate of a drunk leper. On the other hand, final-third insertions just sounds like an unpleasant medical procedure.

This season, the stats show that Rio Ferdinand hasn't been at his best for Manchester United.

But, at 35 years old, that's hardly surprising. Time catches up with every footballer, especially those who rely, in part, on their pace.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Rio Ferdinand of Manchester United warms up prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on January 1, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/G
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He's started just six times since Christmas. And in two of those, the defeats to Olympiacos and Manchester City, he struggled.

But Ferdinand still has something that doesn't show up on a spreadsheet. It's something he's acquired over more than 450 games for United. Something developed with every Premier League winners' medal he's been handed.

Out of contract this summer, this could be Ferdinand's last season at Old Trafford. He insists he wants to stay, but he's reliant on David Moyes feeling the same way.

I want to continue playing.

I’m enjoying my football and my legs haven’t given way yet.

I want to continue, whether that be at Manchester United or somewhere else, depending what the club want to do. Time will tell, we’ll have to wait until the end of the season.

We’ll do what we did last season, wait until the end of the season, get it sorted out and speak to see where we’re at.

Of course. That’s the dream. I’m living the dream and I’d like to continue at United. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Ferdinand's best days are behind him, although his performance against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford was a reminder that he's not finished just yet.

He can't play every week, far from it. But he's still a winner—his CV proves it.

And that's a very powerful quality, especially in a team that looks like they might have forgotten how to do it.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic Manchester United battle with Wes Hoolahan of Norwich City during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and  Manchester United at Carrow Road on December 28, 2013 in Norwich,
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Like Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs are out of contract in the summer. Nemanja Vidic has already decided to leave. 

Between them, they've played more than 2,000 games for United. That's a lot of experience to lose in one summer.

If Vidic was staying for another year or two, maybe the time would be right to let Ferdinand leave. But he's not.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:  David Moyes the manager of Manchester United looks on as Rio Ferdinand passes the ball during a training session at Aon Training Complex on April 8, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Moyes already needs to sign one centre-half to replace the Serbian. And unless he trusts Tom Thorpe or Michael Keane to make up the numbers, he'll need another if Ferdinand departs.

United's squad needs rebuilding, that much is clear. But it cannot be done in one summer. It's a gradual process that will take time.

Players like Ferdinand aren't the future of United. But their past has been so impressive that they still have a part to play. Off the pitch as well as on it.

He might be 36 by the end of next season. But football isn't just about the numbers.