Ferdinand: I once told a fan I’d never play for Manchester United

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Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has told William Hill’s Stripped Podcast that he once told a United fan that he’d never play for the Red Devils because he was jealous of their success.

Speaking to William Hill’s Stripped Podcast, a new series in which ex-footballers and celebrities are invited to take a trip down memory lane by revisiting their favourite shirts, Ferdinand said: “Frank Lampard and I went to Magaluf one year, it was FA Cup final weekend and Manchester United were playing Newcastle. I was in the toilet and a United fan came up to me and went ‘I bet you’d love to play for us, wouldn’t you?’ and I went ‘never would I play for Man United ever, dead team, no chance.’ That was because I was jealous as they just kept winning.”

Ferdinand, of course, went on to have a hugely successful career at Old Trafford winning a host of trophies along the way, including six  titles, and he discussed the influence both Sir Alex Ferguson and some of his future teammates had on his decision to leave Leeds for United in 2002.

He said: “I first spoke to Sir Alex [Ferguson] during the 2002 World Cup. I played well in the tournament and I remember I was speaking to some of his players like Nicky Butt and they were saying ‘you’ve got to come to Man United, it’s bigger than being with England.’

“My whole being of being a footballer was winning and up to that point I hadn’t won anything. I needed to go [to Man United], I couldn’t waste any more time. I loved it at Leeds, but I needed to go and that was it.

“When you first sign you don’t know what to call him [Sir Alex Ferguson]. He’s got such an aura about him, especially when you first go there. To be fair, he’s such a kind and giving human being of time and he really gets to know your personality and character. One of his best traits was that it wasn’t a blanket approach to everybody, he knew the right approach for each player. He would look at everything from a premediated angle, he was doing the mental health stuff before mental health was a thing.”

Ferguson’s successors at Old Trafford haven’t really gone to plan, but after four consecutive victories things are looking up for United under new manager Erik ten Hag and Ferdinand has been impressed with the Dutchman so far.

He said: “I just think he’s brought discipline. One thing I liked that he said was that he was happy with the ‘people he had bought not just the players.’ It seems he’s brought in good characters, Casemiro is the obvious one, [Lisandro] Martinez is the right sort you want in games. Antony looks like he wants to be the main man and he’s enjoying the limelight. The right noises are coming out of the club at the moment.”

VAR in the Premier League has been making the headlines recently, and was on show in United’s victory against Arsenal on Sunday as Gabriel Martinelli’s goal was ruled out for a foul in the build-up. Ferdinand isn’t a fan of the technology and feels significant changes are needed.

He said: “You’d think with the computers and human eye they surely can’t get it wrong, but they are. I just feel the referees should go to the side on every big decision and go ‘bang, it’s my decision, I will tell you if that’s right’. You’ve got the video there, just do it. With the ones that are obvious, let someone at Stockley Park do it.

“Us fans, we want to blame someone, so if it was up to me we wouldn’t have technology in decision making. I want to blame the ref and I want to blame the linesman and I want it to create debate in your front room. I like that, it’s part of the game.”

Finally, after picking the Manchester City home shirt from the 2011/12 season as the one that haunts him most, Ferdinand touched on the rivalry between City and United and how the signing of Carlos Tevez changed the dynamic in Manchester.

He said: “When I first signed for United, Manchester City were nothing. They weren’t even on our radar and they were never going to win anything despite them being our local rivals. They might beat us but they’re not going to win the league. All of a sudden they got that injection of money and they started building and then everyone realised they were here to stay.

“The big one was one [Carlos] Tevez went there. We all knew how good he was and what a player they were getting. He wanted to sign the contract well before the club came to him and the kind of guy he was, he thought that was disrespectful and that’s why he didn’t sign. The chairman at the time, David Gill, asked me to ring him to try and get him to sign and I remember his agent telling me ‘it doesn’t matter what money they offer him, he won’t sign.’”

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