Reds taking care of Rio
Sir Alex Ferguson has paid tribute to Rio Ferdinand and the treatment that’s helping Manchester United’s longest-serving defender to remain at the top level.
Between the brace conceded at Southampton and the triple scored by Tottenham on Saturday, the Reds defence tightened up to the point that Rio played his way ontoManUtd.com’s Player of the Month shortlist.
It represents a fine start to Ferdinand’s eleventh season at United and Sir Alex sees no reason to expect it will be his last campaign with the club.
“We’re managing Rio’s back very well so, touch wood, we’ve not had any great issues with it,” explained the boss in Friday’s briefing with the Sunday newspapers.
“He’s 33 now and he will be important for us again this season. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are still playing. If he looks after himself, which he’s doing well now, and we manage the situation with his back, there’s no reason why he can’t play on.
“When he first started getting the back trouble, he was out for longer periods than ever before. Now we just take care of him in training. The treatment he’s getting and the yoga he’s doing is all contributing to him staying fit.
“He’s using his experience now, whereas six or seven years ago he had such a great turn of pace. He used to almost leave it until the last second and just turn on the gas and get there. But he can’t do that now and, as everyone does, they lose their pace as they get older and he’s using his experience to compensate for that. He’s not taking any chances now.”
Ferdinand is also known to be influential around Carrington, particularly with the rookies trying to work their way up through the ranks.
“Rio’s very good with the young players,” added Sir Alex. “He has a good manner with them and is well respected.”
One of those afore-mentioned rookies could even fill in for Rio against CFR Cluj on Tuesday if, as last season, the elder statesman is excused from the early overseas excursions in the Champions League.
“I think the boy Wootton did very well actually [against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup], I like him,” added Sir Alex.
“He had a spell out on loan last season and he’s a good user of the ball. He’s a good positional player, he reads the game well. He lacks an inch in the air which Evans and Ferdinand have got but then Steve Bruce wasn’t the tallest centre-half either.”
Wootton may have to be content with another watching brief from the bench, however, with Sir Alex saying there’s “no chance” of fielding a so-called weakened team against the Group H leaders.
“Cluj knocked Basel out in the qualifiers, winning both games. And they won 2-0 at Braga, which is not an easy place to go. They’ll be thinking they can go through after that result so we’re taking the game very seriously. We’ll play the experienced players on Tuesday.”