Way before Manchester United made a habit of splashing millions on attracting top talent, the 'Red Devils' signed Rio Ferdinand for a then-world-record fee of £30 million. Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to make Rio Ferdinand the most expensive British footballer in history at the time paid dividends, as the England centre-back went on to make 312 appearances for the Red Devils. Ferdinand went on to win six Premier League titles with Manchester United and also won the Champions League in the 2007-08 season, back when Cristiano Ronaldo was at the peak of his powers at the club.
The towering English centre-back was often singled out for his technical ability in defence, in addition to having a superior positioning sense as well as being quick to recover on counterattacks. Ferdinand went on to form a formidable partnership with fellow Manchester United mainstay Nemanja Vidic. The Ferdinand-Vidic axis would go on to serve the Red Devils well, as Sir Alex Ferguson dominated the Premier League right up until his retirement. As Ferdinand turns 41 on November 7, here is a look at five of the most memorable moments from his career.
Ferdinand's £30 million move from Leeds did raise some eyebrows back in 2002. However, Sir Alex Ferguson had a knack for spotting talent and the signing of Ferdinand is arguably one of the most important signings in the history of the club. Six Premier League titles and six appearances in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year means that Ferdinand more than justified his mammoth price tag.
It was common knowledge that Ferdinand tried his best to force through a move to Manchester United. Just 10 months after his move from Leeds, his transfer would bear fruition. Ferdinand went on to have his first taste of Premier League success in the 2002/03 season after United secured a 2-1 win over Everton at Goodison Park.
With Gary Neville sidelined with injury for the majority of the 2007/08 season, the captaincy armband passed on to Rio Ferdinand. With Cristiano Ronaldo stamping his authority as one of the best players in the world and Wayne Rooney forming a deadly duo with the Portuguese winger, Manchester United had a glorious chance to lift their third Champions League trophy. A penalty shoot-out ensued, and with Chelsea's John Terry missing a spot-kick, Manchester United emerged European champions that season.
Over 65,000 spectators witnessed Manchester United take on Liverpool at Old Trafford in 2006. Still goalless, the game headed into injury time, and that was when Rio Ferdinand decided to showcase his mettle. Ferdinand got on the end of a delivery from Ryan Giggs to head in the winner. His winner sparked bedlam at Old Trafford with Gary Neville being fined for his spirited celebration.
It was only fitting that Sir Alex Ferguson's final home game in charge of Manchester United was a narrow win. With the game looking set to end in a disappointing draw, Rio Ferdinand decided to take matters into his own hands. A corner from Robin van Persie managed to make its way to Rio Ferdinand, who then volleyed home the winner to ensure a fitting end to the game.