Rio Ferdinand being interviewed.

Ferdinand: The training ground is buzzing again

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand paid a visit to the Aon Training Complex this week, to see his old team-mate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the Norwegian club legend continued to prepare his squad for Sunday’s Premier League match against historic rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Our reporter Mark Sullivan grabbed an exclusive interview with the now-retired defender to gather his thoughts on the most-anticipated game of the season so far, from which a win for the Reds would significantly boost our chances of finishing in the top four and also dent the Merseysiders’ hopes of winning the title. 

That topic features prominently in our in-depth conversation with Rio, who also heaps praise on Victor Lindelof’s recent outstanding form in defence and provides an insight into his time with Solskjaer this week. Check out what the big man has to say…

Rio, how much are you looking forward to Sunday's big game?
“This is the first game I look for in the fixture list. When the fixture list comes out in the summer, before the season started, you go straight to this fixture, home and away, and see where it is, when is it in the calendar. You know, that sticks in your mind. It doesn't leave you. Until I came to United, I didn't realise the magnitude of what this game meant to both football clubs. Listen, I saw Ole at the training ground, and you don't need a team talk for this type of game. You sort your tactics out during the week, but on the morning of the game you really don't need to be told what it means and what you have to do. Your head is straight into this game, and tune in.”
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Rio Ferdinand.
Watch our interview with Rio Ferdinand before Sunday's big game against Liverpool.
You got it as a player, but you also know the rivalry as a fan and how much this game means...
“Yeah, bragging rights. Liverpool isn't far, it is just down the motorway from Manchester, so you are in contact with Liverpool fans on a regular basis. A lot of my mates are Liverpool fans. So you don't want to lose this game. As a player, it is pride. Players have egos and this game can really take a lot out of you as a player if you get beat, if you get destroyed on the day against a rival like this. So, all of those things in the mix make for a highly-amped game.”
Is one of your highs that winning goal in front of the Stretford End?
“Yeah, listen, to score for Man United against Liverpool at the Stretford End, and to score an unbelievable goal like that, one of the best this fixture has ever seen - I'm joking! - is incredible. To score against Liverpool and to see their fans' faces, and to be able to always look back and remember that, it is nice to have it in the back pocket. When any Liverpool fan gives me any grief, I just pull it out of the inside pocket of my blazer and say, 'listen - have that!' So, it is a beautiful thing man. Not many players get to experience it. When you score and you win, I have done that a couple of times fortunately enough. Liverpool is just one of those fixtures... it's hard to put into words, for people to really understand what it means.”

Rio's goals against LiverpoolVideo

Usually, when you were playing, we were fighting for the title and Liverpool were trying to upset us. But it has flipped around now...
“That is the incentive. If I was playing for Man United now, my incentive would be not seeing Liverpool winning the league. It is the worst of two evils in terms of Man City or Liverpool winning it. I would not want to see, in my time at this club, Liverpool winning the league. They have not won the Premier League before. I would be sitting there and in that changing room, that is all they would be talking about. 'They aren't winning the league, not at Old Trafford, they aren't coming here and winning the league'. That is how they have got to put it. That has got to be the stimulate for the players. Imagine the feeling of having to walk about when Liverpool are doing a parade for winning the league. That's the way you would be thinking. It would be your worst nightmare.
Rio has been impressed by VIctor Lindelof's performances in defence.
Defensively, we have to be strong. Have you been impressed by the way Lindelof is progressing?
“Yeah, and I think he has done remarkable well to change that, because I think there was a point while he was here under the previous manager when you weren't sure he was going to be the person who would become a mainstay in the centre of defence. He has changed that around. I think that is with help from Ole, being from Norway and speaking similar languages. He will understand him a little bit more and I am sure he is guiding him in the right way. You can tell that from his performances. The sign of a top manager is being able to extract performances and the best parts of people's games. Ole is doing that to a tremendous level at this moment.”
Ferdinand paid a visit to see Solskjaer at the Aon Training Complex earlier this week.

You've been with Ole on the training ground. Just how well is he doing in your opinion?
“Listen, I walked around the training ground, the biggest compliment I can give him - bar the obvious of the players looking happy, getting great results and doing much better than expected - is that the people who work at the football club look happy again. People look like they have a spring in their step, they are happy to be at work, with the environment that he has created at the football club. I don't think people expected that from Ole. He is not an overly vocal and loud, and crazy guy, but he has done touches there that have really enabled people to feel, yeah, this is Manchester United again. That is a testament to his staff. Him, Mick Phelan and the guys behind that are doing a magnificent job. Listen, he is making it difficult for the people who make the decision on who will be the next manager.”

United v Liverpool kicks off at 14:05 GMT on Sunday.

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