With his pace on the wane and a never ending list of injury problems, not to mention his extra-curricular activities taking a more prominent role in his career, it appeared everyone’s favourite merker’s Old Trafford days were numbered.
Fast forward to this season though and Rio has enjoyed something of a renaissance, in fact I’d go one step further and argue this is actually his best season ever in a red shirt. Some fans may look at his ‘golden period’ of 2007-09 when alongside Nemanja Vidic Ferdinand was part of the greatest centre back pairing in the world, but this campaign has been even better for United’s number five- or should that be #5. For starter’s Rio’s cut out all the silly lapses in concentration that used to blight his performances, even when he was on top form, secondly has his pace has deteriorated, his reading of the game has vastly improved. In some ways it may be due to the knowledge that as he can’t rely on his pace to get him out of trouble that Ferdinand now seems to have added focus not to mention a composure that comes with maturity.
This season despite having no less than FIVE different partners in Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, Rio has remained consistent throughout. One of the most ridiculous episodes has been the idea perpetuated by Roy Hodgson that Ferdinand has now suddenly improved this season to be good enough for the England side, the fact is Rio was on top form at the end of last season, playing a huge part in United finishing level points with Champions City. Hodgson thought the likes of Joleon Lescott, Gary Cahill and even Martin Kelly were better suited to helping end England’s 40 odd year trophy drought than Rio Ferdinand. Obviously Hodgson was talking nonsense and the fact none of the aforementioned players are even guaranteed first team football this season speaks volumes, Hodgson chose Terry over Rio- another player now warming the bench- and he chose badly.
Rio’s decision to ignore the England circus- for whatever reason- is only good news for United as it simply cannot be useful having a 33 year-old with injury worries playing any form of international football. England’s loss is United’s gain as Peckham born defender has helped marshall a defence that at one time looked leaky into being one of the meanest in the league in recent months.
Ferdinand’s performances haven’t just been colossal in defence this season, we’ve also seen the former Leeds man bringing the ball forward at times with aplomb, the win against Reading being a perfect example where Rio’s run forward led to United’s winner.
When you take into account that United have the second meanest defence in the league and Ferdinand has played more games than any other centre back, it’s time to give him the credit he deserves. Michael Carrick and Robin Van Persie may be more prevalent in people’s minds when it comes to player of the season and both have had excellent seasons, but of the games United have won featuring Rio ask yourself would we have won them without him on the pitch? It’s more difficult for a defender to be appreciated as the nature of the job tends to be that the better the performance the less you notice them.
When people look back at Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign they may well decide that Rio Ferdinand was his greatest defender, they may also decided that 2012/13 was Rio’s best campaign and if that’s not worthy of player of the season, nothing is.
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