On The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast this week, Barry Glendenning came to the conclusion that Rio Ferdinand’s career appears to have nose dived in just a week.
There was no disagreement from the rest of the presenters either as Glendenning claimed that it had something to do with the fact he lost his case for a super injunction last week. Whilst they joked how this hadn’t changed how Ferdinand was perceived in the public eye they did allude to the fact that it was this more than his actual performances that had changed the tide for Ferdinand.
Last season a poor performance from the former England captain would be excused especially with his injury problems. A tricky calf and bad back were often blamed for any slip ups but it appears he is being given no such leeway this term. There is no sympathy for the defender as poor performances are attributed to a drop in ability (not even standards!) rather than the fact he has been in and out of the team and may not be 100% fit.
So what has changed?
Last season Ferdinand was one of our most important defenders but this season, in October, some fans are ready to cast him off to the trash heap. Well my only explanation is that fans no longer feel we need to rely on a man that injury has made unreliable because of two bright talents in Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Both have shown brilliance, Smalling in Ferdinand’s absence last season as well as this term and Jones in his brief time in our defence. Playing and winning against Chelsea without both Ferdinand and Vidic would have been seen as an impossible impossibility in the past but this season we did just that winning 3-1 (who cares if their 9 shots on target were part of 20 attempts!?)
Phil Jones particularly has aided in the writing off of Ferdinand by the press and fans. The young defender has been a revelation following his £16m move from Blackburn. Excellent displays as well as comparisons to the great Duncan Edwards has built hype and expectation around him that doesn’t look like it will abate any time soon, numerous professionals have earmarked him as a future United and England captain whilst a call up to the England squad from Fabio Capello has left The Guardian’s Paul Hayward gushing.
Described by the scribe as not only a stopper but as a starter, with his marauding forays forward able to create chances as we saw against Bolton, Hayward also made the comparison between the 19 year old and a former United defender in Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and looking at how Pique has done thus far in his career it’s not a comparison we will complain about.
Despite this Rio still has the backing of his peers, Danny Welbeck likened him to a luxury vehicle calling Rio ‘a Rolls Royce of a defender’ (judging by the amount of games Ferdinand has missed through injury I assume Welbeck had the Phantom model in mind) whilst John Terry is 100% sure that Rio can come back although I’m not quite sure from where?
Numerous captain’s performances from Nemanja Vidic last season, a promising start to his United career from Chris Smalling and the continual lavishing of praise on Phil Jones means that it is Rio Ferdinand left on the outside looking in, with fans ready to do Sir Alex’s job for him and deem him surplus to requirements. Ferdinand hasn’t always been the most popular United player despite his stellar performances, there have been a number of instances that have left a bad taste in fan’s mouths and now it appears those who haven’t always been enamoured with him are quicker to write him off than others.
But for me talk of a decline are premature, we have been here before back at the start of the 09/10 season where mistakes against City and Liverpool left fans asking the same questions. Revelations that he was playing whilst injured and subsequent rest and recovered silenced critics and I’m confident that when back to 100% he will do the same this time around.
So no matter how good Jones and Smalling have looked, like everyone they will have to wait their turn. Rio is far from finished and when he gets back to playing at 100% he will assume his role as one of, if not the finest defender at the club.