Rio Ferdinand has been a titan of English football and of Manchester United for the last twelve seasons. Yesterday it was announced that he will be leaving the club this summer at the same time as his long-time central defense partner Nemanja Vidic.
His move to Old Trafford from Leeds United for, then a British record fee of, £29 million was controversial as he was moving from one rival to another. But in time, he became a Manchester United and England mainstay.
Ferdinand’s steadiness was often understated. Central defenders get all the blame when things go wrong but receive little credit for clean sheets and cleaning up other people’s messes. He was also one of the best England had in distributing the ball from defensive positions back into the midfield areas without conceding possession.
His leadership on and off the pitch is part of what made him such an important individual for Manchester United. The continuity of Ferdinand, though not a class of 92 MUFC player, added to the British core that Sir Alex Ferguson maintained throughout his long tenure. Unlike other top clubs who were addicted to the gravy train of foreign players, Ferguson’s United always made an effort to promote domestic bred and based footballers. Ferdinand was a shining example of this policy.
The trophy haul Ferdinand contributed to at Manchester United makes him one of the most decorated defenders in the history of the English game. Six Premier League titles and one European Championship are the highlights of his time at Old Trafford.
What the future holds for Ferdinand, who is now 35, is anyone’s guess. But his contributions will not soon be forgotten.