Rio Ferdinand yesterday recalled the dark days when Ryan Giggs was booed by his own fans and Manchester United were dismissed a "spent force" while he declared his side's standing, as they attempt to move to within a point of an 18th league title at Wigan tonight, to be a vindication of Sir Alex Ferguson's rebuilding.
"Four seasons ago everyone was saying we were finished," said Ferdinand, who faces a late fitness test on a calf strain before the game at the JJB Stadium. "I remember people booing Ryan Giggs. That is how mad it was. But the manager calmed us down, told us to take our time and trust him. He assured us it was a transitional period. The results since have proved that. We have not won anything yet, but we are in a great position to do so."
The abuse from his own fans which Giggs best remembers came in 2002, though Ferdinand also encountered his fair share of criticism after he was photographed at two restaurants in April 2005 with Peter Kenyon, the former United chief executive who had signed him for the club but was by then with Chelsea.
But memories of United going three years without the title will recede further if Wigan are beaten. The emergence of the team Ferguson was assembling has proved decisive. "I never once thought this might not happen again or that it was the end of an era," Ferdinand said. "You just have to trust the manager. He has been so successful, so not to have done that would have been crazy."