Rio Ferdinand has laid bare the secrets of another season of phenomenal success at Manchester United. In a frank interview with Shaun Custis from The Sun Ferdinand, who is celebrating a fifth Premier League winners medal and looking forward to a Champions League final against Barcelona, reveals that…
*Wayne Rooney’s decision to stay at Old Trafford crushed the fight out of United’s title rivals.
*United’s brilliant young Mexican striker Javier Hernandez should have been named Footballer of the Year.
*Noisy neighbours Manchester City would love to swap their FA Cup for United’s title.
*Manager Alex Ferguson has become more meticulous than ever in his quest for domestic and European domination.
*United will rule again next season when they bring in the three new signings Fergie wants this summer.
United will be handed the Premier League trophy at their official title winning party against relegation haunted Blackpool on Sunday afternoon and Ferdinand says Rooney’s re think about quitting United was the major factor in pushing the team on to silverware.
Rooney claimed to be disillusioned with the direction the club was taking and wanted to leave because he feared they would not invest in big-name stars. But Fergie talked him round and Ferdinand had a strong word in the striker’s ear before he signed a lucrative new five-year contract on October 22.
Ferdinand said “Rooney staying was a big part of what we achieved this season. There was a sense of relief from the players, the fans, everybody. Wayne is one of the best three players in the world, so to have him on our team-sheet is a bonus. I spoke to him that week when he was thinking of going.
You do it with a Manchester United hat on and explain what you think is best for the club and how you want him to stay. If he had left it would have been a very big hole to fill. I’m not saying it was unfillable because the manager always comes up with something and you trust in his judgment but, more than anything, Wayne staying sent a signal out to every one of our rivals in the Premier League that the glimmer of hope they had of us falling away had gone.”
One of the players who showed Rooney you did not have to spend ludicrous money to get the best was £7million Hernandez. He has had a stunning first season in English football and amazed Fergie and his United team mates with the speed of his development.” Ferdinand said
“If you were voting today, I’m sure Chicharito would be Footballer of the Year, he’s scored so many important goals. Whenever he’s been on the pitch he’s produced something. Gareth Bale and Scott Parker both had good seasons but for me Chicharito has been the main man. This season it seems a couple of big performances in a couple of games has seen you get championed as Player of the Year but Chicharito has done the business all season.
I didn’t know anything about him when he signed but you can tell in training whether a forward knows what he’s doing. He makes the runs of a senior professional footballer, somebody who’s been doing it for years. His dad played for Mexico and his grandad played in the World Cup. It’s ingrained, he understands football.”
So what of the grand master Ferguson? “He’s as passionate as ever and is displaying a forensic eye for detail. The fire is still burning” Ferdinand said “you see it every day. You look at the detail he goes into in terms of pre match talks, the videos with the staff, the research that they do, and you can’t do all that without having the desire and hunger he’s got.
In fact he goes into more detail than he did when I joined nine years ago and has become a bit more meticulous. That’s probably because the competition has got stronger over the years. He’s embraced everything, like the scientific stuff and has brought that into the club. Everyone’s had to move with the times and he’s done that. He’s mellowed because you’ve got different animals now, there’s more foreign players. But if something needs to be said there’s no half measures.
After what he’s achieved he’s got to command that respect when he walks into a room with what he’s won and the way he carries himself. But he knows you can’t be a schoolteacher all day long. He has a laugh and a joke with some of the players but when it’s business time it’s business. He will come in and take the mick out of people and you can do it back – but only slightly. There’s a definite line between the manager and the players. It’s not a line in the floor where you can actually see it, but you know in your head where it is. We don’t need a kick up the backside from anyone, we can look after ourselves.”
Confronted with the possible challenge from their cross town rivals, Ferdinand did not fail to face the facts “City have got the money, they’re splashing the cash and they’ve got a decent squad now so they’ll be up there challenging for the title next season. Losing to them in the FA Cup semi final was hard to take. You don’t want to lose to your rivals at any point, particularly at Wembley. But ask them what they’d rather win, the FA Cup or the League and you know what the answer will be.
Arsenal will be there or thereabouts depending on what they do in the summer with their squad, Chelsea will be there and Spurs if they invest. Liverpool you don’t know. They’ve won a few games and then they’re talking about winning the League, so we’ll just wait and see.
But we don’t think about other clubs and worry about them. If we get our house in order and we make a couple of new signings like the manager has said, then we’ll be the team to beat.”
Is Rio being over confident or is he spot on with his assessment?