Rio won’t get carried away
Rio Ferdinand is refusing to get carried away with United sitting at the top of both the Barclays Premier League table and Champions League Group H ahead of Saturday’s domestic trip to Aston Villa.
The experienced centre-back, who turned 34 this week, is convinced a run of clean sheets is just around the corner as the Reds focus, first and foremost, on getting three points in the Midlands.
“I wouldn’t say we are over-happy [at the moment],” he said. “We are in the position we want to be. We set our stall out at the beginning of the Champions League to make sure we qualify comfortably. We have done that with games to spare. We are sitting nicely in the group.
“In the league, Christmas-time is when we really evaluate it, through the January period and the turn of the year. If we are in the same position then as we are now, we would say it is a good start to the season. But it is still too early to look at the league table and start singing and dancing.
“We always know Villa is a tough game and they always save their best for us. We always feel we have to perform to our strongest to make sure we get a result there. That is how it has been for the last few years. Long may it continue.”
With qualification for the knockout stages in Europe already assured, Ferdinand can perhaps expect to be rested for the final two group games, although he has no problem playing midweek matches – as he proved when coming on as a substitute in Braga.
“I have not been speaking about my injuries because there haven’t been any,” he stressed. “Over the last 18 months, I have managed it really well. The club have helped me.
“It is testament to the club, and the medical and science department for helping me along. I am just happy to be playing consistently week in, week out. If the manager needs me to play during the week, that is fine as well. I am more than capable of doing that as I have proved over the past 18 months.”
Ferdinand feels a settled defence will ensure things tighten up at the back as the squad have been working hard on becoming more difficult to break down.
“I just think no matter what goes on with the team, when you have a bit of stability in terms of personnel, results start forming a bit more consistently,” he explained. “The manager has not been able to do that this season with players getting injured in various different areas. That is what it has been like for about 18 months.
“We have not been able to find the same level of consistency and put the same team out every week. That is unfortunate when you play so many games and are in the later stages of tournaments. You have to be able to deal with that and we do it better than anyone else.
“We are working on keeping clean sheets and defending as a team. I have seen good signs in the last few weeks. We are getting a better shape, becoming harder to break down and conceding fewer chances. It is only a matter of time before you start seeing a consistent run of clean sheets.”