The secret of Rio Ferdinand’s success as a player was always timing.
Timing in the tackle and timing in his movement. It is not an attribute he enjoys as a writer. His attack on the managerial style of David Moyes, serialised in The Sun this week, would have done far more damage had it not been launched less than 24 hours after his wretched performance, ironically enough, against his former club Manchester United.
Thanks to Ferdinand’s scribblings, it is clear that there was a problem between Moyes and Ferdinand. Thanks to Ferdinand’s display on Sunday, you can understand why. There is a reason why Moyes was loathe to pick him. Ferdinand actually started the first six league games of last season. He was dropped after an offering against West Bromwich Albion that was every bit as watery and ineffectual as the one we saw this weekend. He would make only three more league starts before Moyes’s sacking.
But while it’s hard to argue with some of Ferdinand’s points on tactics and mentality, his assault is rather compromised by the finer details of his complaints. This, remember, was a time when the walls of the empire were crumbling. This was a time when one of the biggest clubs in the world was playing like one of the most ordinary. The only thing that anyone connected with the club should have been feeling was shame. But Ferdinand and some of his team-mates apparently felt peckish.
When Ryan Giggs replaced Moyes as manager on a temporary basis, the first concern of these multi-millionaire footballers was not the outside chance of securing European football, or a chance to impress the new man, or even the security of future employment. It was the status of the chips that Moyes had banned them from eating.
“We’ve got to get on to Giggsy,” an unnamed team-mate is quoted as saying. “We’ve got to get him to get us our f**king chips back.”
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Now, it’s worth remembering that perspective will always make your problems look silly. Ashley Cole’s famous complaint about a £55,000 per week contract seemed serious to him, but less so for people who would struggle to earn half of that in a year. People who would struggle to earn half of that in a year might consider themselves poor, until they met someone who could only just afford to feed themselves. They in turn would be considered lucky by people with no access to clean drinking water, and so and so forth. But even so…
Chips?! Chips! They were upset about chips?! They were directly responsible for the worst defence of a title since Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin tried to keep his knighthood. Never mind bloody chips, most people would have been ashamed to leave the house. Over two decades of practically uninterrupted success was coming to an inglorious end amid a series of terrible performances, the rest of the football world was queuing up to point and laugh at them. And they saw chips as a silver lining on the cloud?
There’s no hiding the fact that Moyes, ultimately, was to blame for last season. There were other factors at play, a confused transfer strategy and an inheritance that wasn’t quite as generous as most had thought, but the former Everton boss still made a series of bad decisions that compromised him almost from his first day in charge. Ferdinand was right, the team was too cautious, the tactics were too one dimensional and the mentality was wrong.
But when Moyes needed the players to pull together, they failed to do so. When he needed the highest paid, most decorated members of the squad to help him cement his position, they weren’t there for him. When they should have been angry about their own performances, they were angry about not having any chips.
Moyes failed at United, there’s no avoiding that. But when you read Ferdinand’s comments, you wonder if perhaps he could have had a little more help.
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