’30/40/50 is the new 20′ is the a line often thrown out as well, but as much as people try to dressing up ageing, there is a point where you can no longer hide the fact that you are getting old.
This week we saw the return of 37 year old Paul Scholes and apart from lacking match fitness, he went about his business like he never left. Ryan Giggs is another senior citizen that is still pulling strings in the team but only after adapting his game.
With these players in mind, unfortunately I don’t foresee a similar outcome with Rio Ferdinand.
I’m a huge Ferdinand fan, I would put him down as one of the finest defenders we have had at Old Trafford and when he was getting stick earlier in the season I attributed it to him shaking off the rust he had accrued whilst out injured. Initially it looked like this was the case and he got back to performing competently but more injuries have disrupted his season and thus brought about more disjointed performances.
Earlier in the season, in light of the emergence of Smalling and Jones, Sir Alex was asked if Vidic and Ferdinand were still first choice? And although he didn’t go as far as as saying no, his Ferdinand – centric response let you know that he too had notice a decline in the defender.
Physically these things happen, although I’m just 23 I can tell that my body doesn’t feel as good as it did at 18/19, and with Ferdinand now 33 he must really be feeling the effects of playing in one of Europe’s most demanding leagues. Something compounded by the fact that as soon as he hit 30, all of the injuries that he had apparently avoided during his career appeared to sneak up on him. Injuries have wreaked havoc on his career in the past few seasons and the numbers prove it.
In 07/08 he played 35 out of 38 league games, the season after that number dropped to 24, it fell again the following season to a shocking 13 and although it rose to 19 last season and he has played 13 of our 20 games this season, you don’t need glasses to see he won’t last a whole season again.
Ferdinand was often referred to as a ‘Rolls Royce of a defender’ and it was a very apt comparison. He was classy as you like, a real luxury that looked even better alongside Nemanja Vidic but what good is a Rolls Royce with 2 punctured tires? These days some of his performances have been akin to that and it is a result of the injuries he has suffered combined with age.
Sir Alex spoke of him losing that little bit f pace and it’s true, although neither are slouches the images of him being out run by Bellamy and Torres in 09/10 are still very vivid and even this season, pacy and strong defenders have given him a bit of trouble.
Demba Ba for example could have won a penalty off of Rio when their legs tangled in the 3-0 loss at St. James Park at the start of the month, there was a time when Ferdinand’s pace would have allowed him to nip in ahead of the striker and win the ball cleanly. Further to this Ba manoeuvred Ferdinand well to get on the scoresheet in that game as well.
Although Ferdinand doesn’t quite look himself I don’t think he is totally shot but sadly he looks like he is heading that way and when the physical starts going then the mental does too. Doubts may creep into his game in regards to how well he can cope with the rigours of playing at the top level for a team like Man United.
Whether this happens will become apparent especially as Ferdinand is usually such a cool customer.
Adaptation is the key to survival according to Darwin but not everyone is able to do so. Players like Cafu and Maldini are a rarity and you have to look at the facts. Pallister left us at 33, Bruce at 35 and Stam had retired completely at 35; more top level players are winding down their careers at this point than not.
It appears Rio Ferdinand may be joining that list but as it reads he will be in brilliant company.