When Sir Alex spoke of Rio Ferdinand changed position in the heirachy of center backs at the club yesterday it was automatically assumed that he was winding up what had been a fruitful career at Old Trafford.
Having joined United 8 years ago, Ferdinand realised the potential he had and went on to become one of the best defenders in the world and the trophies soon followed.
His time at Old Trafford hasn’t passed completely without incident though, there was the missed drug test as well as a contract dispute that left a sour taste in the mouths of some fans but largely he has been a quality performer for us. He seemed to have found the perfect partner in Nemanja Vidic as the two mixed classy defending with a steely determination not to concede goals.
But as they say ‘all good things must come to an end’ and that partnership has suffered largly due to injury induced absences. Vidic has spent sometime on the physio’s table but nothing compared to Ferdinand and this season the injuries have visibly taken their toll.
We were all worried when Craig Bellamy raced clear of Ferdinand to score at Old Trafford in that famous 4-3 derby, luckily Owen was on hand to spare his blushes but when Fernando Torres did the same in October at Anfield leaving a normally fleet of foot Ferdinand for dead, people knew something was up.
The club confirmed our suspicions stating Ferdinand had been playing with a calf injury that had been giving him back problems. Ferdinand returned from this and whilst still giving us brilliant performances there has always been an air of uncertainty around him, with the feeling that the next injury could be the one that does him in for good.
Yesterday Sir Alex spoke of the emergence of centerbacks like Chris Smalling and Phil Jones and Ferdinand is exceptionally unlucky in that these are the people waiting to take his place as both have excelled in defence despite their young ages. Both have shown they are more than capable of stepping in to do the job so essentially have allowed Sir Alex to come to this decision a lot easier.
To remain at the top of the game Sir Alex suggested Ferdinand will have to tailor his game in order to make up for losing a yard of pace and I feel this is where we will see how good a defender Ferdinand is. He has always had the pace to get him out of sticky situations and those concentration lapses but his reading of the game was what really excited people about him.
More often than not he wouldn’t have to run all over the pitch because he could anticipate how an attack would go and simply nip in when needed and carry the ball out of danger to safety. There is no reason why he won’t be able to do so now as well, positionally he has always been sound but the difference is now he will have to make sure that he is spot on all the time rather than have his pace to fall back on in case he isn’t.
There are a number of brilliant defenders that weren’t blessed with pace but still managed to go on to do great things, the man Rio apparently succeeded as England’s finest defender, Bobby Moore, springs to mind so this is by no means the end for Rio Ferdinand and perhaps Sir Alex revealing this will put the fire under Rio.
There is no finer club for Ferdinand to attempt to make this change, he’s been around Giggs who transformed from a tricky winger to a cultured central midfielder, saw Scholes become a deep lying string puller and saw the benefits of Gary Neville adding an attacking element to his game going forward.
The examples are there for Ferdinand and at nearly 33 perhaps he can add his name to the list of those above.