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The end is nigh for Rio Ferdinand

Monday 15th August 2011
Another season has barely started and already, Rio Ferdinand finds himself on the injury list.

Ferdinand faces a six week lay-off with his latest injury suffered in Man United's 2-1 win away to West Brom.  This means that the former England captain, who had the armband taken away from him due to him becoming more and more unreliable, will miss a number of early big games for club and country.

Games that Ferdinand is set to sit out include; Spurs, Bolton, Chelsea, Stoke and Man United's first Champions League tie and Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales.  These are the kind of matches where top players are needed to be counted for, especially with England facing stern competition from Montenegro to win the group.  With Ferdinand becoming more and more susceptible to injuries as he gets older, is he the man that Sir Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello can place their trust in?  Quite simply, the answer is no.

Ferguson knows that Ferdinand's days are numbered, hence why he has invested in Chris Smalling last year, Phil Jones this summer and why he has spent so much time in the development of Johnny Evans.  Whilst still very much the first choice alongside Nemanja Vidic in the heart of United's defence when fit, Ferguson has more than capable replacements in reserve to choose from.   One would suggest that it won't be too long before Chris Smalling and Phil Jones start to come before Rio Ferdinand, not only in United's pecking order, but England's too.

The stars of the so called ‘golden generation' are starting to be phased out by Fabio Capello and replaced by younger and hungrier pretenders.  The next three years are about building for the World Cup in 2014 and next summer's European Championships will mostly be used as a dummy run for the side that is hoped to mature together into potential world beaters (providing England qualify, of course).  Ferdinand will not make the next World Cup; he has competition to make it to the Euro's next summer for the first time in his career, having a unique record of playing in the '98, '02 and '06 World Cups but missing each European Championships in between for various reasons, including famously failing to qualify for the 2008 tournament.

The ability of Ferdinand is not in question, when he is able to lace up a pair of boots he is still one of the best defenders in the Premier League and can still do a job, Ferguson would have got rid of him otherwise.  However, as Ferdinand continues to get older, injuries will become even more of a regular occurrence than they are now.  Gary Neville went through the same decline which was a major factor behind his decision to retire half way through last season.

Neville lost his place in the England set up through his lack of fitness, followed by the loss of his regular starting place at right-back for Man United.  With the likes of team-mates Jones and Smalling, as well as Michael Dawson, Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott providing serious competition for his place in the heart of England's defence, it won't be too long before Ferdinand finds himself on the outside looking in.

Sir Alex Ferguson has never been one to consider a players reputation and he won't care that Ferdinand has 81 England caps to his name; he will make the decision to drop Ferdinand from the starting line-up when the time is right and that time is coming sooner than Ferdinand would care to admit.  Although his time as a regular on the pitch may soon have run its course, the experience he has will always be in Ferguson's mind as he continues the development of Smalling and Jones.

To have someone such as Rio Ferdinand around is a great advantage for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.  The fact that they have Ferdinand there to learn from, who has done pretty much all there is to do, will only help them to improve, great for Manchester United fans and equally great for England fans.

Ferdinand has only made nine appearances for England since the start of 2009, missing the 2010 World Cup through injury; he made 18 league appearances last season for Man United and just 13 league appearances the year before.  It's easy to see that Ferdinand is a player in decline, whilst he was one of the very best defenders in world football at the top of his game; the time has now come for someone to step up and fill the boots that Ferdinand now struggles to fill.

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Aaron Gratton

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