Rio Ferdinand : A Center-Back In Decline...

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Rio Ferdinand : A Center-Back In Decline...
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With just three games left this season, Rio Ferdinand is in danger of not even playing half the number of matches he did last season. Even his tally of 43 last year is around a dozen short of his usual exploits. The more he continues to be sidelined by reoccurring injuries, which some might describe as chronic, the more one starts to believe that Nemanja Vidic will be staying beyond the summer.

Indeed, it appears now that the signing of Chris Smalling is aimed more at replacing the ailing England captain, whose athletic decline appears somewhat of a white elephant at times. While his long-term partner Vidic has rediscovered his menacing stature, Ferdinand has continually looked short, especially since the day he presented Craig Bellamy with a run at goal during the Manchester Derby before Christmas.

Ferdinand is now thirty-one, and looking as though the physical perfection that has allowed him to become a leading centre back, has begun to let him down. Injuries are not uncommon for centre-halfs, but for Rio, a player more anticipation of the tackle rather than penetration of the tackle, speed, agility and mobility are key. All three appear to have faded.

He is not at a Ledley King severity but it is becoming more a certainty that unless he can make a full recovery over the summer, his marriage to Vidic is on the rocks. United will hope Jonny Evans, who reportedly requires surgery this summer, can continue to deputise to the standard he did in latest the Manchester derby....

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