Ferdinand ends day a model of composure

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The Independent Football

For an hour it was a case of sweet FA for Rio Ferdinand, which the Manchester United defender cannot have expected. No, not the Football Association, but FA as in nothing to do.

Here the centre-half, who last Friday received an eight-month ban from football for failing to take a drugs test, had time to reflect on a lot of things since that fateful September day. One of them might have been that he had probably had tougher training sessions than the examination by Tottenham's forwards.

No training at all was what Ferdinand, this country's most expensive player at £30m, enjoyed as he went before the FA's disciplinary committee last Thursday and Friday in Bolton.

But he must have felt that his spell of inactivity, which starts on 12 January depending on any possible appeal, had started here in north London. The odd header here and the occasional short pass there to one of his team-mates made the England defender look a model of composure.

To make what seemed like a routine afternoon easier, Ferdinand was not even the subject of any vaguely insulting chants from the home fans. Instead, a resounding chorus of "Rio, Rio" rang out from United's support. All he had to face from Spurs' fans was a token amount of booing every time he touched the ball, and even that petered out as the faithful realised they were better off backing their team, who unexpectedly had a chance of retrieving a point.

And why was that? Well, after 63 minutes, Tottenham changed the angle of attack, as Paul Konchesky sent in a diagonal pass to Stéphane Dalmat inside the penalty area. With Ferdinand re-adjusting his position, he lost sight of Gustavo Poyet, who poked Dalmat's pass into the net. Six yards out, Ferdinand was the only defender around the Uruguayan midfielder and his one lapse of concentration gave Spurs a glimmer of hope.

But that was not the cue for panic in the United defence. Playing alongside Mikael Silvestre, Ferdinand was confidently snuffing out most of the aerial attacks.

Since Ferdinand failed to take his test, his manager Sir Alex Ferguson has steadfastly supported the player. He did, however, admit to wavering over his selection for this game but despite his error for the goal Ferguson felt he had made the right decision. "I was very pleased with Rio," Ferguson said. "Strangely he has got better and better since this situation started. He acquitted himself in the circumstances." Ferdinand did pointedly go and salute the away fans at full-time before jogging down the tunnel, even making one boy's Christmas by giving an autograph. Unless he was signing his appeal to the FA.

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