FOOTBALL NEWS

25/03/2012 23:00, Report by Gemma Thompson
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Boss hails the Rio factor

As two of United’s most decorated and longest-serving players, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are obvious role models for the Reds’ budding crop of youngsters, but Sir Alex Ferguson insists Rio Ferdinand’s influence in the dressing room cannot be underestimated either.

It’s a decade this summer since the 33-year-old joined the club and in that time he has played almost 400 games and won medals aplenty.

His experience will be vital in the upcoming weeks as will the consistently high level of performance he continues to produce on the pitch. But it’s his influence off it which Sir Alex cites as being just as crucial.

“I forget Rio’s been here for nearly ten years now. I keep thinking I signed him three or four years ago!” joked the boss.

“He has taken on that role of the influential person in the dressing room. He’s great in the dressing room with the players.

“That’s the advantage you have if you can keep players long enough for the influence to spread. In the modern game, as we know, it’s difficult to keep players for more than five or six years. But the longer they stay here the better the influence spreads to them and they can maybe take over from the older players as they disappear.”

A longstanding back problem, which is continually monitored by United’s medical team, coupled with a series of frustrating niggles in the last couple of years had raised concerns over how long Ferdinand could continue at the top level.

The defender has, however, been back to his best this season and Sir Alex believes close management of his fitness regime and the games he plays will see him carry on playing for a while yet.

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