Thursday 25 February 2010

Rio The New Ledley King? Why Fergie Cant Do This..

This morn Mr Rio Ferdinand must have a small demon sitting on his shoulder..

And all the time that little devil is whispering in his ear that his career is over as he knows it..with the curse of a back injury that will slap him round the face everytime he feels he is fully fit. But demons are there to be exorcised..

The news that Rio's back issues have resurfaced are a bitter blow for us. I have eulogised previously how Ferdinand is United's most important player in many respects. His doubters have always slandered him at every opportunity, but the truth is without him we wouldn't have half the trophy haul that we've been privy to the last 8 years. He has been immense, and rightfully so should be Gary Neville's heir apparent. But now that's all in question.

The news is that Rio is to be used in the same capacity as Giggsy to allow rest time between matches. So that means lighter training, less overall games, and a rigid approach to his back, as Sir Ryan has to do with his hamstrings. Giggs has proved that with the right management, that you can take a reoccurring, debilitating injury, and play on successfully. I'm sure there is the right fitness plan out there for Rio...but there is one MASSIVE hitch..

For Giggs, the ability to make an 'impact' comes with the brilliance of one dribble, a run, a cross, a pass, a goal. Even last season when he was named Player of the Year, many of us at Old Trafford would laugh at the old master, as he would have the second half of a genius, which was almost like clockwork preceded by a first half of complete anonymity. At half time we would say "God, Giggsy looks shot!"..only for us to be happily eating our words at full time. It was a script we still follow today.

But with Rio this cant happen. His performance criteria is the polar opposite of Giggs. One bad first half will almost definitely lead to us shipping goal after awful goal. One mistake will be highlighted as brightly as one piece of skill from the Welsh Wizard. The pundits on Sky and Match Of The Day would slaughter him..and then slaughter him..and slaughter him again, with every multi angled replay they could salivate over. It would not be pretty.

Of course the exception to the rule is Ledley King. Here is a player, held together by gaffer tape, gets wheeled out onto the White Hart Lane pitch on a trolley, and then hits a consistency that 99% of Prem defenders only dream about. King does little training, but Harry Redknapp knows what he gives his team. My concern is that at a club like ours this just wont work.

Fergie has been here before though..twice in fact.

The injury problems of Paul McGrath, coupled with his desire to drink Manchester dry at every opportunity, led to his hasty departure. McGrath was arguably United's most talented defender of the 1980s. Quick, responsive and a monster in the tackle. He could also sweep around the park as a defensive midfielder, as he often did..he was Roy Keane before we even knew who Roy Keane was. His successors in Bruce and Pallister were excellent players, but they were not in Paul McGrath's individual class. He was twice the talent that either 'Dolly' or 'Daisy' were. But in the end, his knees gave out. And Fergie recognised that you cant build a defense on a player who is there one week, and on the treatment table the next. As the story goes, McGrath went on to other clubs, picking up a PFA Player Of The Year award after his herculean performances for Aston Villa..where they still talk about him in the same way we talk about..Roy Keane.

The other example is when Fergie thought Jaap Stam was finished. Now yes, we all know he wrote THAT book, but the manager proclaimed that it was for football reasons and a massive bag of Italian swag that convinced him to sell the Big Dutchman - a decision he now admits he got very wrong. Stam had lost a yard of pace after a serious injury. Fergie didn't hang around. Stam was off without as so much as a handshake. The boss waits for no one.

So it makes me wonder what will happen with our Blessed Rio. To me he is the greatest United centreback i have ever seen. He is almost irreplaceable in Ronaldo measurements. We have signed Chris Smalling..a very Rio like player..but i get the feeling he is going to be more like a Wes Brown! ..and we've already got one of them. Coupled with the uncertainty of Vidic's future, these will me hugely worrying times for us in the next twelve months. I can only see Rio retiring from international duty post World Cup to give him any shot at longevity.

The fact of the matter is that as you get older you feel the aches and pains more..and for a sportsman like Rio that is the beginning of the end. Lets just hope for us and him, that when he does wear that red shirt, that he can do his reputation and ambitions justice



  1. Let's hope Rio's back holds out long enough for him to be able to lift that glistening gold trophy in July- I'd hate to think that 'Los Creton' would be given the honour.

    Come on Rio, United and England need you!

  2. Rob,

    Your right, I club like United cannot have defenders who are very good 90% of the time. They need to be consistently good to provide a foundation for a season which ends of with a major trophy. One mistake can leave a team 2 point short of the title. This fact is even more so relevant when one looks at goalkeepers; no team has had a good year if their keeper hasn’t. A striker is judged by how many times he did some thing right (score goals) a defender is judge by how times he did some thing wrong (let in goals). We supporters don’t remember Rooney’s glaring misses, but his great hat trick on debut, and his volley against Newcastle we do. Ask me what I remember of Ferdinand and it is not a great tackle he made but the goals against Liverpool, the own goal against Portsmouth and that flick against city!

    But I have to disagree with you w.r.t to the importance of Rio, Vidic is more important. United’s current and future fullbacks are constantly at fault for goals they let in when opponent’s match up and beat them in the air. And this is why Vidic is so important he is a monster in the air. Not just is he is a really good header of the ball but reads the game better than the other defenders w.r.t where to positions himself when the ball is coming into the box.

    I am not saying Vidic is a better defender, Rio is more complete. But Evans and Brown can better replace Rio than Vidic in my opinion.

  3. Ivann anyone that goes to OT week in week out will tell u who is more important to United either Rio or Vidic..theres no contest. Vidic is half the player without Rio pulling his strings. He is better in the air and is mor aggressive but Rio sets up almost every United move going forward. He finds the midfielders to get things going.

  4. Rob,

    Do you think that Brown and Evans can better replace Rio or Vidic? Thats the real question, not who is a better player.

  5. Wesley and Jonny are excelolent i think they are world class? They would play week in week out for Arsenal or Liverpool..but we need a slightly higher standard. Brown is a great great squad player and i think Evans could develop into a world class centre back, but he is a few years off that at the mo. For me Rio is the best centreback of the past 20 years anywhere in the world