When Fabio Capello handed Rio Ferdinand the temporary England captaincy earlier this year, United fans barely batted an eyelid. After all, the 29-year-old has long been leading by example in the heart of the Reds’ defence.
Composed and classy, Ferdinand is widely regarded as the one of the game’s most consummate defenders. There’s a natural grace and elegance to almost everything he does, although Rio admits he’s also worked mighty hard to iron out his footballing flaws.
Speaking to Inside United as the season reaches its climax, Ferdinand reflects on leadership, learning from mistakes and the loneliness of playing in goal…
The general consensus among fans is that you’ve had your best season in a United shirt this term. Presumably you’re happy with your form?
Well, I always strive for consistency and I think over the last few seasons I’ve managed to be fairly consistent. But at the end of the day it’s about medals and winning things. If I’m performing well and the team is winning then I’m happy. But if we’re not winning then it doesn’t matter how well I’m playing. Maybe in the summer I’ll look back on the season and be able to say: ‘Yeah, I’ve been pleased with my form’. Until then, the focus is all on winning trophies.
On a personal level, is there one performance this season you're particularly proud of?
Probably Roma away. It was a difficult game and a hard place to go. They were the form team in Italy at the time and were playing some very good football, chasing Inter Milan in the league.
They came into the game full of confidence – even minus Francesco Totti – but we managed to come away with a 2-0 advantage. As a team performance, I really sensed a different maturity in the side that night. Over the last few years we might have conceded a goal or two in that sort of situation, but we held on for an important clean sheet. On a personal note, and a collective note, that was probably my favourite performance of the season.
Playing at the back is high-pressure stuff: one mistake can prove catastrophic. How do you go about maintaining a consistently high level of concentration?
When I was younger I had a lot of difficulty concentrating for the full 90 minutes. I only started playing centre half at a relatively late age – before that I was always in the midfield – and the concentration levels and what you concentrate on are different. Nowadays, I talk to myself and