Rio Ferdinand exclusive: Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and solving Man Utd’s defensive issues

  • Rob Swan

What Manchester United fans would give right now to have a defender of Rio Ferdinand’s quality in the current squad.

Ferdinand, who enjoyed a hugely successful 12-year spell with the Red Devils between 2002-2014, is arguably the greatest centre-back of the Premier League era – and certainly one of the best of his generation.

Fans hoped Harry Maguire would prove to be their new Rio following his £80 million arrival from Leicester City in the summer of 2019, but the United captain is currently going through the most difficult period of his career.

Asked what Maguire, who was sent off for England against Denmark on Wednesday night, can do to rediscover his confidence, Ferdinand exclusively told GIVEMESPORT: “Sometimes you need to take a step back – analyse your preparation, your recovery, simplify your game, not take any risks during games in this little period to build that confidence back up.

“A lot of times when you’re lacking confidence, you end up trying too hard. You end up trying to hit a 40-yard pass or making a big tackle on the halfway line, when really you could just stand off.

“He’s got to get through a couple of games unnoticed because at the moment he’s being noticed every single game for the wrong reasons.”


Ferdinand, like Maguire, became the world’s most expensive defender when he moved to Old Trafford from Leeds United in 2002.

But the 41-year-old believes Maguire’s experience of dealing with the step up to Man Utd is very different from his own.

“It’s different for me because I went into a stable dressing room,” Ferdinand continued.

“For players coming in now, it’s not a stable dressing room, it’s not a dressing room full of winners. It’s not a dressing room where a new player can come in and go ‘right I’m going to grab on to a couple of coat-tails and be guided a little bit’

“Robin van Persie is a great example. He came into the dressing room – experienced, top goalscorer in the Premier League, one of the best players in the Premier League. He comes to Man Utd and is still looking for information and insight into how to win. That isn’t there now, so it’s a lot different.”


Like every other United fan, Ferdinand is bitterly disappointed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to sign his top targets before the transfer window closed last week.

He added: “It’s obvious Jadon Sancho was a target – so why didn’t you get him? I want to know why you didn’t get him. You want answers as a fan. To shut up the narrative that’s out there now, it’s better to hear answers. Just come out and go ‘this is the situation, we didn’t get him for these reasons’ – bang, move on.


“But it was dragged on all the way through the window, then there’s frustration and anger that comes out of that because fans don’t know what’s going on and there doesn’t seem to have been a plan b in terms of what you’re going to do in case he doesn’t come.

“That’s how we see it but if we’re told ‘this is what’s happened’ it might control the temperature of the fans a little bit.”

Ferdinand also says he’s ‘baffled’ that United still haven’t signed a fast centre-back.


“I don’t think they’re hard problems to fix if I’m honest,” he said. “If you get the personnel right and shape the team right… it’s not easy but I look at Man Utd and it’s quite clear to see what the problems are.

“I’ve said it for ages but not having a quick centre-half baffles me.

“There are players out there – like [Dayot] Upamecano – but it’s just getting them. The most important thing for this window was to get your targets, especially when you look at the way Everton were in the window – decisive. The way Tottenham were in this window – they highlighted players and got them. Same for Chelsea.

“What have those three clubs done after getting all those players they wanted? Changed the outlook on their team for the better, whereas Man Utd… and they finished last season in better shape than all those teams. But all of a sudden, it’s now looking a lot murkier just because of a transfer window.

“The power of a transfer window is telling. It shows it’s got to be done right, otherwise you get to the situation that we’re in now.”

Man Utd, who sit 16th in the table as things stand with three points from three matches, resume their Premier League campaign away at Newcastle United on Saturday night.

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