Talk of a serious Rio Ferdinand regression premature
“[Rio Ferdinand’s] performance was nothing short of magnificent,” announced Alan Hansen on Match of the Day 2 yesterday, before wheeling out selected clips for his analysis on what appeared to be Ferdinand’s return to form (at one point, he put down a random pass to Wayne Rooney as good “anticipation” ). He was correct, however, in his observation that the former England skipper was the stand-out performer in the 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers; helping Manchester United keep a clean sheet in the process.
Indeed, this did look like a return to form. Ferdinand’s start to the campaign was by no means encouraging. That’s not to say that he was dreadful, far from it, but he appeared to be a liability for United. And, given his injury record, and his age, it was excusable to think as much. Fabio Capello logically axed him from the England team – although somewhat questionably in the favour of Gary Cahill – and his days as an international looked numbered; and then, unsurprisingly, rumours emerged of a possible move away from Old Trafford.
Manchester City’s 6-1 thrashing of United in late-October acted, for some, as confirmation for his supposed regression; he was ruthlessly exposed by City’s attacking artillery and looked a player not only lacking sharpness and fitness, but devoid of any confidence. Some may even argue that this ‘regression’ had actually started seasons before – perhaps, when he had set up that Twitter account – where injuries were all too-frequent. Even then, though, we saw enough to suggest that, potentially, he can be at the top for another two or three years. It was at the beginning of this campaign where we all felt a little concerned.
But back to yesterday’s Match of the Day. “Finally,” Hansen continued. “Six weeks ago, he wasn’t fit enough to do this.” And there, they showed an impressive moment where Ferdinand, alert and full of anticipation, sprinted out of the 18 yard box to make a clever interception, preventing a possible goalscoring opportunity for QPR. It seemed as if he had rolled back the years. Apart from a few blemishes, he was largely impressive in this game – and complimented the much-maligned Jonny Evans well. In fact, not only was it Ferdinand’s best game of the season, but Evans too.
By definition, Ferdinand has regressed. But that’s barely a surprise for a player well into his 30s. The point is, he hasn’t ‘regressed’ as much as some think. Since the start of November, the 1-0 win over Sunderland to be precise, he has barely put a foot wrong. Ferdinand is still very much the same player as he was in his peak; perhaps, in present day, he’s a lot more hesitant, has lost a bit of pace but he is still fairly agile and his calmness is still his defining feature.
What Ferdinand remains is someone who is dependable, not always, not any more, but enough to give United fans reasons to be confident(ish). Albeit a slightly irritating figure, with his banal tweeting and incessant plugging of his below-average, pathetic excuse for a webzine, he is still a good player. A very good player. And his recent purple patch isn’t so much to do with Nemanja Vidic being absent, more so to do with the fact that he has always had it.
– My sincere apologies for quoting Hansen. I feel dirty.
– Just as I finished writing this, I hopped onto Twitter and there he is promising to give an Xbox away for his followers on behalf of his magazine. I take all the kind words back.