Reds Reap Rio Rewards
As Manchester United celebrate their 20th league title following their 3-0 victory against Aston Villa on Monday, the importance of Rio Ferdinand to their success this season cannot be understated. Playing in almost three quarters of their Premier League fixtures, despite his long term back problems, the 34 year old Englishman has proven that he has plenty more left in the tank.
Playing with a swagger not seen since 2008, Rio has arguably been United’s finest player this season, oozing class and composure throughout. Whilst United’s other centre halves have chopped and changed, Rio has been the keystone in United’s defence- marshalling De Gea, guiding Rafael and linking with Carrick.
Using all his experience and guile, Rio Ferdinand has re-established himself as England’s finest centre half and United’s #1. Despite being rather lucky to avoid punishment for clapping in the referee’s face against Real Madrid and tripping Torres in the FA Cup, Rio has been a calming presence at the back for United this term. Authoritative in the air, clinical in the tackle and precise in his distribution, United would have dropped many points without him.
Since signing from Leeds United for £30m in 2002, Ferdinand has proven to be an extraordinarily influential bargain with a stellar record on the pitch and an interesting one off it- and this season has been no different (#5 caps, driving bans, ill-advised tweets). Yet, despite all the baggage (the drugs test, the contract, the prank shows), he has been a great leader on the pitch who’s shown tremendous longevity to ultimately lead United to one of their most successful Premier League campaigns ever.
Now in the process of planning his thoroughly deserved testimonial, Rio can turn his attentions to next season and beyond as he looks to extend his Premier League career as long as possible. Expected to sign a one year deal in the coming weeks, Rio will likely have a less important role to play next season as Jonny Evans and Phil Jones continue their rise up the ranks but, as his performances against Madrid , Liverpool and Spurs showed, his experience and ability cannot be under-estimated.
Just as Jenson Button is no longer the fastest pair of wheels on the track, Rio is no longer the fastest defender in the land. Yet, both have remained remarkably smooth operators with the latter gliding across the pitch, reading the game telepathically and intercepting balls with ease. In the short term, neither is showing any signs of slowing down next season and just as Jenson Button’s relaxed style has kept him an F1 betting favourite this term and beyond, expect Rio Ferdinand’s Rolls-Royce style to keep him going from August 2013 and beyond.
And, just to prove he’s not getting boring in his old age, here’s a lovely reminder from Beautifully Red of what he can do further up the field, too.
How good do you think Rio has been this season?