The cruel hammer blow received by England manager Fabio Capello with the withdrawal of his captain Rio Ferdinand from the tournament just one week before the opening match against the USA may eventually have serious consequences for Sir Alex Fergusons attempts to reclaim the Premier League title for Manchester United next season.
The 31 year old centre back sustained ligament damage to his left knee during England’s first training session in South Africa as he turned to chase the ball after Emile Heskey flicked it past him at the end of the squad’s first full training session at their base in Rustenburg. Hospital scans later revealed that Ferdinand will be out of action for up to six weeks with his place in the squad taken by Tottenham Hotspur defender Michael Dawson and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard taking over the captaincy.
Ferdinand only started in 12 league matches for United during an injury riddled 2009-10 season and at his age, serious concerns must be raised as to his ability to ever return to 100% fitness. That will present a big enough problem for Sir Alex but when the lingering question marks over the future of Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford are taken in consideration, a worrying situation can fast turn into a nightmare.
Despite repeated denials to the contrary by Vidic and his agent, a string of impressive World Cup displays for Serbia during the tournament will almost certainly bring a large number of tempting bids from European clubs who have been eying him for months. All players give serious consideration to their agents’ advise and big money transfers are after all where small fortunes can be made by them.
Ferguson will have no trouble in blocking those offers but there’s always a possibility that all the attention may unsettle the big defender. A scenario of losing the vast experience of both his central defenders will not be something that Sir Alex will want to contemplate but it must be one that can easily develop.
England boss Fabio Capello is obviously shocked by this unexpected turn of events “It is obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio. It was an accidental injury in training but had nothing to do with the pitch” Capello told a press conference shortly afterwards.
The injury will obviously be a bitter blow for the recently installed England captain as the tournament in South Africa would have almost certainly been his final chance for World Cup glory. Just before the England squad flew out for their date with destiny Ferdinand insisted that anything less than winning the trophy for the first time since 1966 would not be regarded as a success and that England were not competing just to make up the numbers.
Ferdinand injury brings back memories of former Manchester United captain David Beckham just prior to the 2002 World Cup when a challenge by Argentina’s Aldo Duscher in United’s Champions League quarter final against Deportivo La Coruna broke a bone in his left foot. The speed of Beckham’s recovery from that injury became a national obsession but although he returned in time for the group opener against Sweden, his match fitness and mobility was badly hampered. When the injury flared up again during the match against Brazil, Beckham ended the match on the sideline in tears as England went out of the tournament.
The millions of England fans will be desperately hoping that no tears will be shed in a tournament that has started so disastrously for it’s captain.
Will Ferdinand ever return to complete fitness at his age?