By Mark James
With the recent fallout regarding Rio Ferdinand’s refusal to don the expectant ‘Kick it Out’ t-shirt in support of the PFA’s anti-racism campaign, it seems that cracks are appearing to show in the relationship between the sporting king of Twitter and his less social network savvy boss.
Despite the United manager’s reassuring proclamations that all has been resolved, question marks regarding the reliability of his one-time record signing were already raised prior to this weekend’s events and with consistent pressure to say goodbye to his international career (a move which Ferdinand seems less than willing to make), one has to question whether the cracks in their relationship might develop into gaping chasms.
Many United fans will argue that our key strength lie in our defence, whilst it is the midfield in desperate need of bolstering. But, with the ball continuing to fly past De Gea and Lindegaard as they play musical chairs in goal, a consistent central pairing is vital to shoring up our back line, and with the events of Saturday’s pre-game warm-up leaving Sir Alex Ferguson notably embarrassed in post-match interviews, Ferdinand’s tenure at Old Trafford may be in greater threat than ever before.
But, what next for the man who has arguably been responsible for changing the impression of what an English centre back should be? Despite his lack of pace, his experience and leadership ensures that there would many suitors for his name, but few locations could offer him the media attention and lifestyle of Major League Soccer in the United States.
Never one to avoid controversy and always willing to court the attention of the media, Ferdinand has had a rollercoaster career, with record setting transfers giving way to lengthy bans, Champion’s League medals giving way to recurring back problems and most recently, the potential to pass the torch to a new generation of young defenders giving way to an embarrassing England exile. Could the latest race related controversy be the final straw?
To make matters worse, it seems increasingly likely that any contract renewal will come with a substantial decrease in salary, whilst a move to MLS will not only provide Ferdinand with the ideal end to his career, but also bring with it the kind of money the Glazers will be unwilling to part with in order to hold onto a player who turns 34 this coming month.Whilst Ferguson’s recent admission that “I didn’t even realise his contract was up”, was followed by the somewhat tongue in cheek remark that “You are making me panic”, there is no denying that should Ferdinand opt to look elsewhere, there will be a noticeable hole in the back four, the squad and the dressing room.
Few would suggest that Rio Ferdinand remains the irreplaceable defender of the past ten years, and Manchester United are known for adjusting to the loss of great players, with the likes of Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Christiano Ronaldo all having departed in the past. Is now the time to discuss a mutual parting of ways? Can United’s back line cope without one of the greatest centre-backs of all time? Or is Rio Ferdinand the brick wall we need to rebuild a leaking defence?
Only time will tell. But one thing is for certain; no one would wish to deny Rio a swansong in the American sun and with the unwarranted attention placed on him in recent weeks, few could blame him either.
About the Author: Mark James attended his first Manchester United game in the mid 80s. He has been a regular visitor to Old Trafford for more than two decades and has developed a passion for sports writing since leaving University with an Honours Degree in Media Studies. As a dedicated writer, Mark has been published in UN sponsored business magazines on behalf of International Tourist Boards, dramatically boosted the online present of e-commerce companies around the world and continues to share his love of Manchester United with blogging communities across the internet. Available via a number of freelancer hire sites, Mark can be contacted through his leading online profile available here..