Man Utd legend Rio Ferdinand opens up on his toughest opponent, Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest trait & partnership with 'monster' Nemanja Vidic after entering Premier League Hall of Fame
- Ferdinand a six-time Premier League winner
- Totalled 189 clean sheets in 504 league appearances
- Boasts a league win ratio of 67 percent
WHAT HAPPENED? Ferdinand arrived in Manchester in 2002 for a then-record British record transfer fee from Leeds United, having emerged as one of the top ball-playing centre-halves of his generation from his time in West Ham's academy. The England international went on to win the Premier League in his first season at United before lifting five more titles - including three in a row between 2007 and 2009 - totalling a whopping 504 appearances across 20 league seasons.
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WHAT THEY SAID: Across that time Ferdinand faced several difficult adversaries, coming up against generation after generation of world-beating talent. There is one, though, that stands out in particular, as he told the Premier League's official website after his induction into the Hall of Fame: "Dennis Bergkamp was one of my hardest opponents. I played against him when I was quite inexperienced and young. He caused me all sorts of problems. He was a nightmare!"
Despite such challenges, Ferdinand amassed a staggering 189 clean sheets in the Premier League, boasting an incredible 37.5 percent clean-sheet ratio of matches he featured in. A large part of that resolute defence was down to the Englishman's famed partnership with Nemanja Vidic, who Ferdinand admitted surprised even him. "Nemanja came out of nowhere. The first few months he was there, he was way off it. I was asking myself 'who is this guy?' - but then he became a monster," he said. "The best centre-back partner I ever had. We just knew each other's games and complimented each other perfectly. He prided himself on going up and winning that first duel every time. Normally in a partnership, there’s one whose head and shoulders above the other, but there was a real respect between us."
A balletic presence at the back in six title-winning campaigns for @ManUtd 🏆— Premier League (@premierleague) May 3, 2023
Welcome to the #PLHallOfFame, @rioferdy5 👏 pic.twitter.com/CqA4rA6eMb
THE BIGGER PICTURE: While Ferdinand left United for QPR in 2014, the centre-back celebrated a memorable Premier League triumph a year earlier, as it marked Sir Alex Ferguson's last year at the club. The veteran Scotsman, who remains the most decorated manager in world football, was key to Ferdinand becoming a Red Devil, as he revealed: "One of the biggest things on the day was meeting Sir Alex properly. I had met him before, in the car park at West Ham. I was fumbling all over the place. He’s got an aura. You hear about the stories of how ferocious he is in the changing room so there’s instant respect, instant fear. He’s great at making people a bit calmer because he understands his impact on people. One of his great traits is softening the room when it needs to be."
DID YOU KNOW? Ferdinand ended on the winning side in 208 Premier League games for United, with only six players doing so more often. His win ratio of 67 percent is the joint second-best of any player with 250 plus games for the Red Devils, behind only Patrice Evra (68 percent).
AND WHAT'S MORE: Later on Wednesday, Ferdinand was joined in the Hall of Fame by former Chelsea shot-stopper Petr Cech and Arsenal icon Tony Adams. Cech, who won 124 caps for the Czech Republic, holds the record for Premier League clean sheets as a goalkeeper, with 202 to his name from 443 appearances. Cech helped the Blues to back-to-back league titles in 2005 and 2006 - conceding just 15 goals in his first season in England - and won another two during his 11-year stint at the club. The 'keeper finished his 15-year Premier League career at Arsenal, by which point he had also amassed a record four Golden Gloves.
Adams, meanwhile, initially joined the Gunners way back in 1983, and won two league titles at the club before the formation of the Premier League in 1992. He went on to captain Arsenal to a domestic double under Arsene Wenger in 1997-98 and repeated the trick in 2001-02. Adams remains the only player to captain a club to the title across three different decades.
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WHAT NEXT? The Premier League Hall of Fame, which recognises and honours those who have made the most meaningful contributions to England's top flight, is set to announce one other inductee later on Wednesday.