English Premiership

Ferdinand fears for United's soul

2015-09-13 15:20
Rio Ferdinand (AFP)

Manchester - Rio Ferdinand feels that Manchester United have changed beyond recognition since he left Old Trafford and is worried about the club's ability to attract the best young English players.

The 36-year-old former centre-back is one of 22 senior players to have left United on a permanent basis since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013 as part of a drastic restructuring process started by Ferguson's successor David Moyes and accelerated by current manager Louis van Gaal.

Van Gaal has spent over £250 million on new players since becoming manager last year, but with United in transition, Ferdinand worries that his old club are no longer the draw they once were.

"I'm thinking trophies. Where am I going to go?" said Ferdinand, who attracted interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Roma before joining United from Leeds United in 2002.

"If I'm looking at it now and all those clubs come in for me now, I'm thinking who's got a better chance of giving me a trophy. Is it Man United?

"Would you sit there and say Man United have got the best chance of winning me silverware as a player? That's the question you've got to ask yourself. I don't think Man United are going to win the league this year.

"You look at young players, (Everton's) John Stones for example. He's a young English player.

"He's going to give whoever he goes to 10 years' good service. When you go in for a player like that, you've got to start selling them the dream."

Ferdinand spent 12 years at United, winning six Premier League titles, three League Cups and the 2008 Champions League, but despite having only left a year ago, he barely recognises the club now.

"I was talking to Nemanja Vidic the other day on the phone and we were both saying the change is unreal in terms of the personnel and the transfer policy," he told reporters in London earlier this week, prior to United's 3-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday.

"We were saying, 'If they'd spent £50 million when we were there, we'd have won how much more?'

"It is totally different and it doesn't look like anything that I knew when I was there. It's just all changed. Everything's changing other than the groundsman and the chef."

As well as changing tack at boardroom level, lavishing money on transfers in a manner rarely seen during Ferguson's reign, United are also a different prospect on the pitch.

Gone are the devil-may-care attacking and dramatic stoppage-time winners, and in their place Van Gaal has introduced a patient, probing style where keeping possession is key.

It has prompted reports of training-ground dissent, and Ferdinand says: "The philosophy is completely different.

"Man United supporters now have to go away and re-educate themselves on how to watch Man United. Don't go there expecting to see free-flowing, attacking, gung-ho football.

"It's a different type of football, very methodical, clear-cut pattern of the way he wants the team to play, and it's totally different."

Ferdinand is currently studying for his coaching badges and believes it is essential that United employ former players as coaches, such as current assistant manager Ryan Giggs, to keep the club's traditions alive.

"It is vitally important that they keep that lifeblood of Manchester United in people who understand the club," said the former England centre-back, whose wife Rebecca died from breast cancer in May.

Ferdinand is mindful that there is a "lopsided" underrepresentation of black and ethnic minority managers in English football, but hopes it could take one strong pioneer to spark a revolution.

"Sometimes there is more than just shouting about it -- it is about doing," said Ferdinand, who is working as a pundit for BT Sport this season.

"If a black guy goes in and gives himself the best opportunity to do well, it breaks down a lot of barriers."


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