Rio Ferdinand : 'When everyone else was signing players, I was thinking: what are we doing?'

Rio Ferdinand gives Tim Rich his verdict on United's lack of summer spending, the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez, John Terry's dilemma and the new threat from Manchester City

They may both be central defenders – perhaps even two of the best central defenders playing in world football – but there are many differences between Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.

No matter how hungover he was on his stag do, the Chelsea captain would never agree to lounge by the poolside in a tight orange T-shirt that barely covered his nipples and ludicrous denim shorts.

You need confidence, what in Tel Aviv they would call chutzpah, to carry off that kind of thing, and Terry, who after two championships and a European Cup final still obsesses about the player ratings he sees in the newspapers after each game, does not have Ferdinand's brand of confidence. But then, not many people do.

Currently on the South Korean leg of Manchester United's pre-season tour, Ferdinand looks back to June and the trip to Tel Aviv, an intriguing choice of location perhaps for a stag do. It's hardly Prague or Krakow. "My mates woke me up at seven in the morning and said this is what you have to wear. I had a towel round my shoulders but beneath that was a tight-cropped vest. Lovely stuff."

Terry would rather die than be photographed in that kind of garb, but as the summer unfolded, a summer that Ferdinand admitted he spent worrying who Manchester United were going to sign, there was the intriguing prospect that he and Terry might become neighbours, as the England captain pondered an offer from Manchester City that amounted to a salary of nearly £15m a year.

"JT is his own man, he will make his own decisions, everyone makes their own decisions in life. If I were leaving Manchester United, I wouldn't go to a team I felt wasn't capable of winning trophies or finishing in the top three. Whether that is Manchester City I don't know. The more I think about it, abroad is the only place I can see myself going. I wouldn't want to be playing against Manchester United every week. I would rather go away. But sitting here I can't see myself leaving."

It is possible to see Ferdinand as football's equivalent to Jamie Oliver. There is the same savvy London blokeishness and the same kind of social concern – Ferdinand has his campaign against knife crime and his investment in a football academy in Uganda to match Oliver's restaurant staffed by YTS trainees. They both have their own magazine, although Rio's #5 is online and has rather less about polenta and sun-dried tomatoes and rather more about rap star 50 Cent and Mickey Rourke.

The current issue has footage of Cristiano Ronaldo, the jewel that was Manchester United's, and the impact of whose loss will be keenly studied in both Liverpool and Chelsea. The two had a close relationship but Ferdinand is philosophical about its ending.

"We shouldn't be bitter towards Ronnie," he says. "If you think that a career lasts 10 to 12 years, he gave six of them to Manchester United – half of his career to one club after coming from Portugal. You couldn't cast a shadow over his dream to play for Real Madrid. Playing for Manchester United is the holy grail for some people, and some people won't understand him but he is a great lad and will always have an affinity with the players here. In time people will see that."

Ferdinand's wedding to long-time girlfriend Rebecca Ellison this summer might have dominated his thoughts but he does admit to worrying about Manchester United as news came in that Real Madrid had spent £166m on Kaka, Ronaldo and Karim Benzema while Manchester City were scooping up what was left.

"I am a great badgerer of the coaching staff," he said. "I always want to know what's going on. Everyone was signing players and I was thinking to myself: 'Well, what are we doing?' But, then again, if we have to go into a season with the same nucleus of players, I wouldn't have been bothered. What reassures me is that there is so much more to come from our younger players – the Machedas, the Welbecks, the Evanses.

"Initially, I was surprised when Michael Owen signed. But I was thinking like a fan. If you look at his stats, he has played a lot more games than I thought. And after seeing him close up I am very confident we have signed the right type of player. You can understand why the manager has put faith in him.

"One thing I'm sure of is that Ronaldo going will bring the best out in our players. We know he scored a lot of goals in the last two seasons for us, especially against the lower teams in the league. He'd get a couple of goals a game against them on a regular basis. But we've got players who we know are capable of doing that and now the way the team shapes up, whoever's on the pitch, I'm sure they can go out there, do that job and fill the gap.

"That longevity and that time we've had together as a team to learn each other's games and personalities is a big weapon, and one we have to use. We've got a great mentality at the club, winning three titles on the bounce. That says it all, we have the mentality of winners, we want to win all the time."

Ferdinand is more conciliatory towards Carlos Tevez and Manchester City than others have been at Old Trafford, but what concerns him most is how Manchester United respond to a season which, despite three trophies, came to a juddering and dispiriting end in the European Cup final.

"Only time will tell with Manchester City," he said. "In some ways it's exciting that someone outside the usual top four has money to spend and might be a threat. But only time will tell because money is not the key to success. Not always.

"I don't see Carlos going as a defection. He was a free agent to make his mind up after his two years were up. It was down to him to decide but, looking at it from the outside, it seems a complicated issue in terms of communication between the two parties. If they weren't saying the same things, a deal could not be made. But I am more interested in how we perform.

"After the final [against Barcelona] I thought we'd had a bad season, that was my first reaction but, as time goes by and days and weeks pass, you judge it with a clear head and realise it was successful. We got three trophies and reached a second successive Champions League final.

"But when you travel around in the summer you are never too far from a news stand and I would normally buy a sports magazine but this time I didn't. I was to-ing and fro-ing about whether I could have done this or that but it is time to put it to bed. I'm over it, looking ahead."

First line of defence: Who is the world's best centre-back?

*Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United)

Remains the world's most expensive defender at circa £30m back in 2002. Ferdinand led United to a third straight Premier League title last season, having formed a formidable partnership with Nemanja Vidic.

*John Terry (Chelsea)

The England captain has won two Premier League titles after coming through the ranks at Stamford Bridge. Roman Abramovich's millions have built a side around the 28-year-old Blues captain.

*Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)

Described by Terry as the best defender in the world in 2008 following Carragher's international retirement. His consistent performances were key in Liverpool's most sustained title push in years last season.

*Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Real paid €27m for Ramos as a 19-year-old in 2005, and he's gone on to be an ever-present, winning two titles as well as the 2008 European Championship with Spain.

*Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)

The 24-year-old Italian centre-back has become a permanent fixture in the national side and is seen as the heir-apparent to 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro.

*Lucio (Internazionale)

The 2002 Brazilian World Cup winner joined Inter after leading his country to Confederations Cup success last month, scoring the winner in the final.

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

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence