It’s that time of the year where we decide our player of the season, here at Red Flag Flying High, our various writers have different opinions on who deserves the accolade of ‘United’s Player of the Season.’ Here’s Andrew’s view on why it should be former captain Rio Ferdinand. Whether you agree or not you can cast your vote at the poll at the foot of this article.
Our early season league form had seen us attack aplenty and play some of the most exciting football seen under Sir Alex. However Tottenham, Arsenal, Bolton and Chelsea had all had at least 20 shots each at the United goal. With de Gea in net and Smalling, Jones and Evans in defence, they were badly in need of a leader and figurehead. Thank God for Nemanja Vidic’s return from injury against Aldershot. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that, without the big Serb, we’d still be on 18 league titles; he was that important last season.
However, when the final whistle blew on that cold, December night in Basel, and it was confirmed we had been knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage, we thought our season couldn’t get any worse. Then, the following morning our worst fears came true; it was confirmed Nemanja Vidic would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
Surely our season ends there. De Gea was making mistakes left, right and centre. Evans had given away a penalty against Arsenal, chances galore against Chelsea and had even made mistakes against Liverpool, as well as his infamous red card against City. He was a liability. Phil Jones was hopelessly out of form since a shocking night against Benfica; and Smalling was in and out of the team. A season full of lows continued to get worse as Patrice Evra’s form became badly affected by the Luis Suarez affair. Those early defences deficiencies would surely resurface, I mean, we couldn’t exactly rely on Rio Ferdinand, could we? He’s always injured.
And yet, here we are. With four games to go, we’re five points clear. David De Gea’s shot stopping has become so good, it’s a shock to see him concede, and Jonny Evans has stepped up the plate so much so that were the season a little longer, he would be an outsider for Defender of the Season.
Rio Ferdinand, like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs before him, knew he couldn’t rely on his pace as he did in his younger days, and he’s had to adapt his body and use his mind. He doesn’t come up for corners, he’s become much more vocal, and is now the calming presence in the box we have missed since Edwin Van Der Sar lretired. He’s matured. He’s started to concentrate on his football, and it’s showing on the pitch. Liverpool at Old Trafford in February, was one of the most highly charged Premier League matches in recent years. A match that called for cool heads. Evans and de Gea had both been superb against Chelsea, but were far from “on form”, Rafael was renowned for being a “hot head” and Evra’s head was clearly affected by his protagonist role in the day’s story. Ferdinand stepped up to the plate magnificently. All game he was superb. From his fantastic, last ditch tackle on Suarez to his calmness around his own box in stoppage time.
Against Blackburn, with United getting more and more nervous, anxious for a goal, the last thing we needed was to concede; and that’s exactly what would have happened were it not for a fantastic tackle on Yakubu by Rio.
This season he’s rolled back the years. He’s done it quietly. People have spoken of how much Rafael, Evans and De Gea have developed around him. On the quiet, something Rio hasn’t been used to in the past; he’s having a strong hand in nurturing the club’s future.
While he’s still loved, I don’t think anyone has missed Vidic this season. We’re talking about a man considered by many to be the best defender in the world, and our young, “transitional” team hasn’t missed him one bit. For that alone, Ferdinand must be our Player of the Season.
He may not be United’s best player, and he’s certainly not the future. But take him out of this team, and the chances an open top bus parading the Premier League trophy with red ribbons attached, around Manchester would be all but extinguished.