With Gary Neville injured and Ryan Giggs only making an appearance from the bench, Rio Ferdinand was entrusted with the captain’s armband for Manchester United’s appearance in the European Cup final last season.
Ferdinand has emerged from a hate figure for much of the Old Trafford crowd, to a worthy captain, again, for much (not all) of our fans. His maturity is something which has been noted in the press time and again recently, with Ferdinand growing up and growing away from the negative features that previously dogged his character.
His affection for the club has also grown. Whilst before United just seemed to be just something to fund his lifestyle, the new mature Rio is aware of what an honour it is to play for our club.
“To be able to stay at Manchester United for another five years is something I wanted desperately,” Ferdinand said after signing another contract extension. “You see the surroundings, training every day at Carrington and playing in front of 70,000-odd fans every week, what more could you ask for?”
Whilst becoming Manchester United and England captain are things Ferdinand desperately wants, his ability to put others before himself is impressive.
After being tipped to be both the long-term England and United captain, Ferdinand played down the effect captaincy should have on your performance. If you’re a born leader, as Rio is, then nothing need change.
“The way you prepare for a game shouldn’t be dictated by whether or not you have an extra piece of cloth on your arm,” Rio said. “You just go out and do what you normally do. That’s what’s won you the captaincy in the first place, so why change it? It’s a privilege to be the captain and lead the team out, but I don’t change anything. I just try and be myself. I talk quite a bit anyway during the game and in the changing room, so I just try and continue that and obviously lead by example on the pitch. You play to the best of your abilities and give 100 per cent and if your team-mates see you, the captain, doing that then it might inspire them a little more.”
After Fabio Capello named Rio as his captain for England’s friendly against France, he was again very respectful of his team mates and others in the running for the captaincy.
“Being given the duty the other day was a real honour for me, I’d love to be the captain of England, who wouldn’t?” he said. “It’s not going to be the be all and end all, it won’t make or break my career or make me lose sleep at night. I’m still going to have the same thoughts and apply myself the same way regardless of who is being picked as captain. I want to win things and we need eleven captains out there not just the one.“
Sir Alex Ferguson has claimed that it’s in Rio’s “destiny” to become our catapin, following his impressive displays with the armband in place of Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.
With this is mind though, Rio has against respectfully paid tribute to Neville.
“Gary Neville is the Man United captain. The sooner he gets fit for Manchester United the better because he is a fantastic player,” said Rio yesterday. “We are hoping he’ll be fit for the new season. He’s had a lot of bad luck this year with injuries and we’d like to see him fit. He’s a top player.”
Whilst in the past I made my feelings of dislike for Rio well known, I just find myself becoming more impressed with his attitude. Instead of directing the praise in his path, he is more than happy to praise those around him. Whilst others are concerned with their own status, Rio will sacrifice that for the club. He wants to be captain, but it happy to give 100% for the shirt regardless of who wears the armband. And that is admirable.