The Red Devil Within
‘RIO Ferdinand has pretty much burnt his bridges after his agent announced that the England centre-back was looking to play for ‘a bigger and better club’. It may be true, but fans don’t need to hear it – and Pini Zahavi’s rider that his client ‘is very happy at Leeds’ will cut little mustard.
|Leeds United fanzine: Rio models new Leeds shirt|
It is not a question of whether the proposed move to Manchester United goes ahead. As one fan said: ‘I don’t think he realises what he has done – he will get more abuse than even Eric Cantona did when he played at Leeds for United in 1993.’ Note the use of the word ‘has’. It’s not a question of what he is doing or what he is considering doing, but what he has done.
There is nothing fans hate more than a player, whose massive wages they have effectively been paying, disrespecting their club. That is why West Ham fans hate Paul Ince. Not because he moved to Manchester United, but because he was posing in a Manchester United shirt before the deal had even been done.
On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with Rio Ferdinand wanting to join Manchester United. Most players in the Premiership would jump at the chance to play at Old Trafford, even if they were too diplomatic to say it.
When Paolo Di Canio was being courted by Sir Alex Ferguson last season, Hammers’ fans at least understood why he would want to go. With West Ham, the best he could ever hope for is a domestic cup and maybe a run in the Uefa Cup.
But what Ferdinand has done wrong – or, at least, what his agent has done wrong – is to state his ambition in too clear terms. ‘Rio wants to be competing for titles and medals,’ Zahavi said, the implication being that he can’t do that in West Yorkshire.
Leeds want to believe they are as big a club as Manchester United. They want to believe that they can challenge for the Premiership title and repeat their European Cup run of two seasons ago. And they don’t need their club captain telling them otherwise.
In truth, such is the hatred of Leeds fans for their more illustrious neighbours on the other side of the Pennines that anyone moving from one to the other could expect a bad reception. What had Cantona done to deserve the boos in 1993 when the man the crowd should have been railing against was Howard Wilkinson who sold the Frenchman for a paltry sum?
When Ferdinand returns to Elland Road as a United player (and it surely is a matter now of when, not if), he knows what kind of reception he is in for – and he should know that he is partly responsible. ‘