Rio Ferdinand walks out at Old Trafford tonight for his testimonial after ten years at Manchester United but it hasn’t been all rosy for Rio on the way.
A missed drugs test in in 2003 saw him banned for eight months and a contract saga of his own in 2005 that took over a year to be concluded left a sour taste in the mouth for fans but few would argue that he has more than made up for his discrepancies now.
For me, the 34-year-old has been the best defender United have had in the 2000’s and one of the finest in the clubs history. He was one of the linchpins in United’s most successful decade as a club and when he does hang up his boots, it is going to be a hard task to fully replace what he brought to the squad. World class ball playing defenders don’t come around very often.
Despite his long tenure at United, it wasn’t always the plan for Rio. In a great interview with The Mirror, Ferdinand was open about his intentions to leave United after a few years but admitted that his love for the club stopped him from doing so. He said: “I could see myself at a club for ten years which wasn’t as big and as prestigious as Manchester United. But to do it at Manchester United is just crazy to think about. I never believed it, I never even thought about it, if I’m honest.
“I thought I would be at United for a couple of years, maybe three or four, and then go abroad somewhere. But I just fell in love with Manchester United. I fell in love with winning, fell in love with the history of the club and being part of it was something I could never have imagined.
“The pull of staying at Manchester United and being part of the success has probably got stronger as the years have gone by.”
Ferdinand has had his doubts in the past but he overcame them. He loved the club. He didn’t want to leave. It was his home and the fans endeared him for that. It is the mindset that all fans want their players to have.
Rooney has done the polar opposite. His love for the club goes no further than the surface despite having been at the club for nine years. Both Rio and Wayne have had their contract issues in the past but unlike Ferdinand, Rooney hasn’t proven he deserved a new deal.
He would have his own testimonial next summer if he stayed at the club and is just over 50 goals away from being United’s all-time top goalscorer, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.
If Rooney was to come out now and state his desire to stay at the club, fans would quickly forget the past if he turned it around on the pitch but the longer the summer goes on, the less likely that looks.