playing a crucial role in United's record-breaking clean-sheet run. Certainly, without his consistent performances at the back, the Reds may not have gone on to win an 18th league title or reach a second successive European final. Sir Alex's men lost to Barcelona in Rome, although things may well have been different had Ferdinand been fully fit (a calf injury hampered Rio's preparations).
Unfortunately, injuries also played a big role in Rio's 2009/10. The defender made just 12 starts in the league as back, hamstring and groin problems severely limited his involvement. He fared slightly better in 2010/11, starting half of United's 38 league fixtures as the Reds marched towards a record-breaking 19th title and proving particularly key in the run-in as the games came thick and fast.
And there was further improvement in 2011/12, when Ferdinand was a near ever-present in United’s back four. Although the campaign yielded no major trophies, the centre-back made 38 appearances and his invaluable experience helped United take the title fight down to the wire.