Rio Ferdinand punch drunk as Manchester United and Manchester City face round two

27 January 2010 11:58
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Asked if he was set to jump ship to Juventus following their tepid 0-0 draw with Wolves, Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez mischievously wore a half smile and deflected all questions with his usual charm and repetitive insistence on 'only talking about the game.' Like BBC Three filler and enemy of all things pure and good, 'Two pints of larger and a packet of crisps', the Spaniard's interview routine gets less entertaining with every viewing, wasn't funny to start with, though always seems to be on.


And after all the hot air he has spewed out over a combustible playing career Gary Neville is trying to offset his noxious emissions by building an James Bond villain underground bunker eco-mansion to live in. Somewhere between, er, Bolton and Bury.



Rio Ferdinand is many things. An international class defender. A self styled publishing mogul. A sub-Guy Richie film producer. An absent minded shopper who can't be trusted to empty his bladder at an appointed time. A modern day Jeremy Beadle who is never more than a giggling, half arsed plan away from 'merking' the great and the good in the game.

And this most adaptable of modern sportsmen today finds himself in his latest role, cast as a British version of Jack Bauer, working against the clock to foil unscrupulous men in suits with nothing but his wits and Manchester United's team of highly paid legal advisers to help him.

Ferdinand returned to action for United at the weekend after three months out with various forms of jiggered muscles in his back and legs to issue some no nonsense Bauer-esque punishment to the hapless Craig Fagan. With United cruising to a comfortable 4-0 win that took them back to the top of the league, Ferdinand wanted to inject a little drama and menace in to proceedings and duly gave the Hull City player a slap.

Banged to rights, the images of Ferdinand's indiscretion have played on loop on Sky Sports News.

Ferdinand has until 6pm today to appeal, something that would allow him to play in tonight's powder keg Manchester derby in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. His case would then be heard on Thursday, and here's the problem, with the prospect of an additional ban for wasting everyone's time.

That would surely happen. Should he instead take it like a man and plead guilty before today's deadline Ferdinand will miss the match against Manchester City, then Premier League fixtures against Arsenal and Portsmouth. Appeal and fail, he would feature against City but still miss Arsenal and Portsmouth, though also an away match at Aston Villa and probably a further game against Everton, both in the league.

What anyone familiar with American team drama argot would brand a 'no-brainer', then. Not the first time Ferdinand has been associated with such a moniker.

It all adds fuel to the towering inferno of tension, ill-feeling and malevolence which is threatening to make a game in this tin pot Mickey Mouse afterthought of a cup one of the must see matches of the season.

The first game ebbed and flowed in such a fashion as to leave the tie as finely balanced as a 13-year-old Russia gymnast told she can't see her parents again until she learns how to do a triple backflip on the pummel horse.

Carlos Tévez's burning sense of being wronged, Gary Neville's superb schoolyard retort to the Argentine's goading, Garry Cook's continued insistence in letting his mouth run off on its own without any consultation with his or anyone else's brain and a Wembley final at stake as well as local pride all add up to a humdinger of a match.

Should United prevail, City can, for now, be put back in their box, patted on the head patronisingly and told to be quiet. If it is City who progress to a final meeting with Aston Villa, the implications for United's season are immense.

Not, you understand, because they have in a very minor fashion been usurped by City. And not because they have lost out on a trophy that at the start of the season would have meant about as much to Sir Alex Ferguson as the FA Respect campaign.

But, rather, as another unwelcome addition to the general sense of unrest and negativity surrounding the club. Weighed down by toxic debt, and toxic owners, injury ravaged and lacking the brio and invention they specialised in when you know who was still around, United, though in a healthy position in the league, are out of sorts.

The attention shone on this fixture and the meaning imbued in it means United can't afford to lose. If they do they risk slipping further in to a funk that may be hard to drag themselves out of, especially with a rejuvenated Milan fast approaching in the Champions League.

Ferguson has reacted to it all in typical style, raging against the FA bringing charges against one of his players for assaulting an opponent Javier Mascherano did similar against Leeds without action; the charge should have been issued tomorrow to avoid the City match coming in to the equation.etc.and so on. and continuing his one man war against the fourth estate.

Sky cameras have been banned from his Friday press conference because of their part in reporting the spat between Neville and Tévez and Ferdinand's indiscretion.

Shooting the messenger may be an effective way of deflecting blame from one of his own. Failure tonight, especially if Tévez plays a significant part, and another fall guy might be a bit harder to get in Ferguson's sights.


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Source: Telegraph