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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rio's best yet to come

Rio Ferdinand has been one of United's most consistent performers over the last recent seasons - but Sir Alex Ferguson feels he will only get better as he enters the peak years of his career.

The 29-year-old was yesterday voted into the FIFPro World XI, recognition from his peers of the quality of his play.

"Rio's best years are in front of him," said Sir Alex. "He is easily going to play for the next five years. He looks after himself and he is very fit so I would expect him to be here for that length of time."

Ferdinand's emergence as one of the finest, most complete, defenders in the game is largely down to gathering experience, according to the Reds boss.

"Rio has leadership qualities and we are really starting to see maturity in his game," he added. "We always knew that he was good at taking the ball out of defence because he has such wonderful balance and great pace.

"Now we are seeing more edge to his game and more of a contribution in terms of being voluble towards his team-mates. He is much better at that."

Ferdinand early ability to adapt to most positions on the field - there was talk during his early days at West Ham of him playing as a deep-lying midfielder - has seemingly made his all-round game stronger.

"We tried playing him in midfield against Blackburn but he got sent off," joked the boss.

"He has always had a natural composure on the ball. His pace always gets him out of spots of trouble and he has lovely balance.

"They are three great assets to have in a defender because normally you talk about forwards and wingers being like that. All in all, you would have to say the lad has a lot going for him."

Tevez tips Double repeat

Carlos Tevez is convinced United have the quality to repeat last season's Double triumph.

The reigning champions of England and Europe have recovered after a slow start to the season, and Argentine striker Tevez can only see things getting better.

"I am convinced the entire squad is capable of maintaining the challenge throughout the season and staying at the top of the Premier League," he told MUTV.

"After Christmas we have to play teams like Chelsea and Liverpool at home. We are going to be up there all the way throughout the season because we have the quality throughout the squad to be doing that."

The Reds have taken seven points from three Champions League games so far this term, and Tevez sees no reason why Sir Alex Ferguson's squad cannot become the first since AC Milan - back in 1990 - to retain the trophy.

"I think we have the squad capable of retaining the trophy," said the Argentine. "Whether we host teams here in Manchester or away we are capable of giving anyone a game and of beating anyone in the competition.

"The usual suspects - Real Madrid, Inter, Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool - are always there, and retaining the trophy is a challenge we are looking forward to."

Vidic reveals early fears

Nemanja Vidic feared United were on the brink of surrending the Premier League title before the end of September.

Injuries, mixed form and a tough fixture list, which included trips to Portsmouth, Liverpool and Chelsea all conspired to leave the Reds with five points from the first four games of the season.

“We didn’t start well in the first few games and when you don’t have a good start you worry about what might happen," Vidic told the Mirror. "You begin to think, ‘If we lose one more game we could be out of the Premier League’.

“It’s something at the back of your mind and you feel the pressure. When you have that you get worried about what you might do in a game."

Since drawing at Stamford Bridge in September, however, United have won six of the last seven games and conceded just two goals. In such a rich vein of form, Vidic admits confidence is oozing out of the Reds' performances.

“But when you start to win, that brings the confidence back and when you are winning and scoring goals, like we are now, the confidence starts to flow.

“We’ve started to look like a team again, compact and with the right shape.

“I feel we’ve definitely got more now than last season. I believe we can be better but we can only show that on the pitch. Then you will see how much we improve. And at the end of the season, we can say we did.”

United target £3m Greek ace

Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to splash £3million in January on Greek wonderkid Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Manchester United chiefs have already opened talks with the defender’s club, Olympiakos. The 16-year-old — also a target for Espanyol — holds the record as the youngest player in the Greek league.
Staff reporter, The Sun