Rio Ferdinand is a bit jealous when Rio talks about Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood learning from Cristiano Ronaldo this year.
Sportsmail hears him say, “I had Neil Ruddock,” while he discusses his early influences in his career. They get Cristiano Ronaldo, and I get Neil Ruddock. Unbelievable. Neil is a great guy, but they are different professionals, if I understand correctly.
If Rashford or Greenwood do get some tips from Ronaldo during their second Old Trafford stint, it could be Ferdinand. The former United defender called his old team-mate Ferdinand after hearing that the Portuguese icon might be joining Manchester City rivals.
Ferdinand won’t reveal all details, but Ronaldo’s return in red may indicate that the conversation was successful.
He smiles and says, “We spoke,” “And I’m just glad he’s wherever he is.” It was a nightmare to think that he would put on a Manchester City shirt.
Analysts claim United didn’t even require Ronaldo before Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford on transfer deadline day. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had just spent PS73million on Jadon Sante, Mason Greenwood scored three goals in three games, before Ronaldo arrived. Rashford will soon be back from injury.
The loudest concerns are about Rashford and Greenwood’s development, and the path of two of England’s most exciting young players. Ferdinand, however, dismisses all of these concerns.
The former England defender claimed that if I was Rashford or Greenwood, I would be the happiest child on the planet right at the moment. They have the chance to work with Cristiano, who is ambitious and absurd in a way that you didn’t think was possible.
“I believe they must be sponges. They have to be students. They must watch him. If I was there as a child, I would be obsessed with him.
It doesn’t really matter which position you play in, but if your goal is to strike a ball, you will be obsessed. He would be staring at me thinking, “I’m an oddo,” because you want to know everything he does and be the best.
Ferdinand knows what it is like to be that “weirdo”. Ronaldo was the shining star in United’s golden era, with Ferdinand as the lynchpin for defence alongside Nemanja vidic.
All things came to an end, and it was a positive one, in spring 2008. The Red Devils won the title by defeating Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow.
It was the Cristiano Ronaldo Show in Russia that evening. The Portuguese winger scored 42 goals to break the deadlock and missed a penalty in shootout. But he still managed to lift the trophy.
Ferdinand recalls Ronaldo’s impact on that season and says that he felt like a defender if we kept the score clean. He would score at some point during the game. It was something we felt all the time, it was pure confidence.
“They have the chance to do that this year, with Ronaldo, Greenwood, and Rashford, as well as (Edinson] Cavani and Sancho with (Bruno] Fernandes and (Paul) Pogba. I can’t even remember all the names. The other players must do their jobs.
Ferdinand doesn’t worry about the squad depth. It is a challenge for United’s defenders, which must complement the high-class attackers in front of them.
Solskjaer is able to call on two reliable defenders at each position of the backline, especially after Raphael Varane’s arrival from Real Madrid for PS42m.
The former United centre-back claimed that there are good players on the pitch. Players can also come in during games to do jobs. “That’s what you want, especially the back four.
“(Victor Lindelof) can come in for one or two games, I’d be happy with that. (Diogo Dalot) will remain at right-back. He had a great season with AC Milan. You’ve got backups everywhere, so (Alex) Telles could come in for Luke Shaw.
“We have the personnel to compete on all fronts, and they’ve got the squad strength now. They have added a world-class player in Ronaldo and another potential world-class player in Sancho. They have a greater chance to compete for the Champions League than in previous years.
Ferdinand would Ferdinand have done United’s transfer business differently if he had been revealed by Sportsmail as being in the running to be United’s director football role.
“I would have tried to get a specialist defensive middlefielder in, because that’s the only area. Fred has been a good player and (Scott McTominay) could be a great fit if that’s what they want.
“But I feel that if there was a specialist who is familiar with the role, it would provide a bit more protection for our back four.” Is it possible to have more protection if Varane is present?
United will begin their Champions League bid next Wednesday, with Ronaldo, a five-time winner of this competition, helping them in their quest for Europe’s top club competition.
Ferdinand, despite the fact that United has added world-class talent, is still cool about his chances of winning the largest prize in the club games.
He says that he believes Chelsea and Manchester City have teams that have won, which gives them more belief. “Liverpool has also won many things in recent years, so these squads are way ahead of us in terms of experience as an entire group.”
“In terms of knowledge and experience, United is currently at the bottom of our favourites list. They would be behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.
“You can then see Paris Saint-Germain. They’ve had an incredible window, one the best I have ever seen.
“They’ve got (Gianluigi] Donnarumma, the Euros champion at the back, and (Georginio] Wijnaldum at the front – I don’t know why Liverpool let him leave – and then one the greatest players to ever play the game in Lionel Messi. There aren’t many windows like that.
“Bayern Munich” will be back, or at least thereabouts. This team has been dominated by the same faces for many years.
“But, because of the weakness in the Spanish teams right now, I think it will be Bayern, PSG, and two English teams at the semis.”
No matter how much experience other teams have, Ronaldo is not available in Europe. Ferdinand insists that the Portuguese star can recreate the form of his Old Trafford debut at the age 36.
Ferdinand insists that he is not this or that. But he was the top goal scorer in Serie A last year. Although everyone says he has lost quality, he is still a better player than anyone else.
“I expect him to score between 25 and 30 goals this season, if not in all competitions. I would be shocked if he does not reach 30 goals.
Since leaving United in 2009, Ronaldo has only once failed to reach the 30-goal mark in any competition. Ferdinand might be correct in that prediction.