Rio Ferdinand eager to win the playground battle

 

Rio Ferdinand wants to win the Europa League - if only to shut a few kids up in the school playground.

Now a father to three children, Lorenz, Tate and Tia, Ferdinand has discovered that his status as a top class football star for Manchester United and England does not spare him from the cutting comments that are so much a part of school life.

In fact, as the 33-year-old has found to his cost, it makes him a very easy target.

So easy indeed that he cannot resist the odd response.

It's all good humoured of course. But Ferdinand is keen to get the upper hand if at all possible.

"You have to understand, we've still got lives to lead outside of football," he said.

"When you're walking up the path to school, you don't want little kids laughing at you or making fun of you because you've been beaten.

"That's what happens if you lose games or get knocked out of competitions.

"Young kids can be unforgiving. There's nothing in their minds that goes: 'he plays football, leave him alone'. If anything, they're even worse for it.

"And there's still a little kid inside me who has pride and an ego and wants to make sure I can walk up that path and nobody can say anything to me because we've won.

"I know as soon as that feeling goes it's time to pack up my boots."

With a 2-0 advantage from the first-leg in Amsterdam last week, it would appear unlikely Ferdinand will have anything to worry about this week as United look to tie up a Europa League last-16 clash against either Lokomotiv Moscow or Atletico Bilbao by easing past Ajax at Old Trafford on Thursday.

No FA Cup distractions meant he was able to take advantage of a rare weekend off to watch old mate Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid.

However, in joking that he would like to stuff the former world player of the year in his luggage, Ferdinand was admitting the truth of United still missing their one-time star man, sold in 2009 for a world record £80million.

Ronaldo might well have saved United from some of their more damaging losses this term, including that shock Champions League defeat to Basle that condemned the Red Devils to UEFA's second tier tournament.

And, of course, the 6-1 annihilation by Manchester City in the Old Trafford derby, that brought Ferdinand yet more grief.

"Now that they are up there challenging we're seeing more Manchester City kits around town and more people are talking about them," he said.

"You didn't see that years ago. Now we want to shut those people up too."

That City are not only the main obstacle to United's hopes of retaining their Premier League title but remain potential opponents in the Europa League just adds more spice to the latter weeks of the campaign.

In a sense, to have reached such a point is good news for the Red Devils given the doom-ladened predication that accompanied their departure from Switzerland in December.

Ferdinand sensed the mirth of non-United fans and didn't like it.

Two months on, he is able to adopt a more phlegmatic stance.

"You can't sit still or worry about what people are saying," he said.

"At this club it doesn't happen. We just go out there and perform to the best of our capabilities.

"We know we've got fans to go out and impress - we want them talking about us in the right way.

"As players we demand the highest standards of ourselves and if we don't meet them the dressing room isn't a nice place to be.

"You don't want to be in a position where you're going into a game and you're not fighting for titles."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn