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Rio Ferdinand

ferdinand.jpg

Rio Ferdinand

On 22 July 2002, Ferdinand joined another Premier League club, Manchester United, on a five year deal to become the most expensive British footballer in history, the world's most expensive defender again (a title he had lost in 2001 to Lilian Thuram). The fee included a basic element in the high twenty millions, and some conditional elements, which allowed Leeds to tell their fans that they were selling him for over thirty million. Leeds United later took a single payment in place of all the contingent elements when they were desperate for cash during their financial crisis. The final book value of Ferdinand's contract in Manchester United's accounts was £33 million. This included agents' fees, with Leeds receiving in the region of £30 million. Ferdinand's early Man Utd form was very poor, which culminated in his horror show against Real Madrid in the Champions League. Ferdinand is often criticised for his tendency to make crucial errors and have lapses in concentration. Most notably, Franco Baresi labelled him as a poser.
Ferdinand in a Manchester United shirt.

Ferdinand went on to win the Premier League title with Manchester United in his first season. He has also collected a winner's medal in the 2006 Carling Cup, with runners-up medals in the 2003 Carling Cup and the 2005 FA Cup.

On 14 December 2005, in a game against Wigan Athletic, Ferdinand scored his first goal for United, en-route to a 4-0 victory. This was his first goal after more than three years at Old Trafford. He followed this up with a powerfully headed goal against West Bromwich Albion. He then scored a last minute winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford, possibly his most important Manchester United goal to date. In the corresponding fixture in the following season on 22 October 2006, Rio scored again in a 2-0 victory. Ferdinand and his brother held an informal competition on how many goals they could score during the 2005-06 season, though neither are prolific goal scorers, which Rio won 3-2.

Following impressive and consistent performances in the league, Rio Ferdinand was named in the 2006–07 PFA Premiership Team of the Season alongside seven of his fellow Manchester United teammates.

Ferdinand started the 07–08 season well, he was part of a United defence that managed to keep 6 clean sheets in a row in the Premier League, before conceding an early goal to Aston Villa at Villa Park on 20 October 2007. It was also during this game where Ferdinand scored his first goal of the season, which was United's 3rd goal of that game, with a left foot strike which took a very strong deflection off one of Villa's defenders. Just 3 days later, Ferdinand scored his first European goal for United by opening the scoring against Dynamo Kyiv, with a superb header. United dominated the game and won 4-2.

On 12 January 2008 Ferdinand bagged a rare Premier League goal in a 6-0 hammering of Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

In their FA Cup quarter-final match against Portsmouth on 8 March 2008 when Manchester United dominated, Ferdinand made a rare appearance as a goalkeeper, after Edwin van der Sar left the pitch with a groin injury and the replacement keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak, was sent off after conceding a penalty. Despite diving the right way, he was unable to save Sulley Muntari's spot kick, and Manchester United were eliminated from the FA Cup.

On 6 April 2008, against Middlesbrough, Ferdinand limped out of the match due to a foot injury. He was rated doubtful whether he would face A.S. Roma in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg on 9 April 2008. He would play the full 90 minutes, though he received three stitches at half-time.

Despite having been linked with a move to Barcelona, it was announced on 16 April 2008 that, along with Michael Carrick and Wes Brown, Ferdinand had agreed to sign a new five-year contract, worth around £130,000 a week, which would keep him with United until 2013. The contract was finally signed on 15 May 2008.

On 21 May 2008, Ferdinand captained Manchester United to a Champions League Final victory versus Chelsea. He accepted the trophy together with Ryan Giggs, as Giggs was the on field captain for most of the matches during that season during Gary Neville's absence due to injury.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live he criticised FIFA's approach to tackling racism in football, stating that not enough was being done to punish those guilty of homophobic or racist abuse at matches. Regarding taunts aimed at Emile Heskey in England's 4–1 victory against Croatia in Zagreb, Ferdinand remarked:

    "Croatia were fined a few thousand quid. What's that going to do? That is not going to stop people shouting racist or homophobic abuse...If things like this keep happening you have to take points off them. Then the punters will realise the team is going to be punished."
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