Rio Ferdinand has divulged some of the terms Sir Alex Ferguson used on Manchester United’s bitter Premier League rivals during pre-match team talks to rouse his troops ahead of crunch contests.
Ferguson, 80, presided over 27 golden years at Old Trafford during a club-defining era. The esteemed Scot transformed the fortunes of The Red Devils during those halcyon days and consolidated their status as one of Europe’s most feared and succesful sides.
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Among his defining moments in the North West, Ferguson was revered for his application in so-called ‘big matches’. His bitter rivalry with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger during the noughties was as enthralling as it was ill-tempered, which culminated in the infamous “Battle of Old Trafford” in 2003.
The eternal bad blood between Man Utd and Liverpool made for compelling showdowns as well during Ferguson’s time in the dugout. And Ferdinand has now revealed some of the expressions he aimed at those rivals in the dressing room before they took to the turf.
He told William Hill’s Stripped Podcast: “Something Sir Alex Ferguson used to say about Arsenal during his team talks was, ‘Get in their faces. They don’t like it, they can’t deal with it. They’re babies. Get right up against them and you’ll win this game. Rio, you’ll overrun them, you’ll overpower them.
“The most iconic team talk Sir Alex Ferguson ever gave at Manchester United was when we played Liverpool at Anfield once and he just said, ‘I don’t even need to talk to you, really. It’s the worst Liverpool team I’ve ever seen on a team sheet’. That was it. And then yeah, we won that day.”
With the emergence of the so-called ‘Big Six’ during the end of Ferguson’s time at Man Utd and Wenger also stepping down, the rivalry doesn’t quite have the same bite or needle as those tinder-box days at the start of the century. But it remains a fiercely-competitive and riveting rivalry nonetheless. September’s showdown, in which Man Utd won 3-1, had all the hallmarks of a classic: six yellow cards, VAR controversy, four goals, and comebacks galore.