Rio Ferdinand has sung the praises of Derby County manager Wayne Rooney and has even backed his former Manchester United teammate for the vacant Everton job.
The Rams boss has worked miracles this season at Pride Park despite financial uncertainty threatening their Championship status and the club’s very existence.
Having entered administration in September, Derby currently have a 21-point deduction and a transfer embargo in place, prohibiting Rooney from strengthening his side. As such they were recently unable to renew the contract of Phil Jagielka, who has since left and joined Stoke City.
Despite being hamstrung by off-field troubles, Rooney has kept Derby fiercely competitive in the second tier and hopes of staying in the division are not as perilous as they once seemed, with the east Midlands club just eight points off safety.
It’s a remarkable achievement that would see the club sit 11th in the table were it not for their points deduction, with Rooney currently on a five-game unbeaten run that has seen them claim the scalps of four clubs and lifted them off the foot of the table, including promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion.
And Ferdinand, who knows Rooney exceptionally well having shared a dressing room with him at Old Trafford for a decade, has revealed the key difference between the former forward as a player and his experience of him as a manager during a visit to Derby’s training ground.
Speaking on his Vibe with Five YouTube channel, Ferdinand said: “He is such a different person behind closed doors. Yes they are a young squad, he has given out a hell of a lot of debuts but their reactions, they are transfixed. He spoke with such authority and a calmness, didn’t waste a word.
”A lot of things he was saying was about trust – ‘I trust you, I believe in all of you’ – and you can see why they have that fight for him and that togetherness. He is instilling it with his staff.
“I saw a different Wayne Rooney to the one I grew up with and saw grow up at Man United, it was a real positive experience. It was the confidence and I didn’t expect it from such a young coach.
”I thought there’d be a lot of ‘ermmmm’ – you see the interviews, no disrespect – but he was just calm man, I was so impressed. The results he is getting off the back of it, I’m not surprised.
“Wazza is good at detail, his game was about detail. People would think it was hustle and bustle and bang, a shot out of nowhere but to be the player he was you had to understand details and it is about translating that into the team.
“He was taking people off to the side saying ‘I want this, I want that’ and it was really good. I’m not saying he is the next Sir Alex or the next Pep but he is on the right track.”
Ferdinand has even backed Rooney for the vacant post at Goodison Park, but only in the summer once he’s finished the current campaign at Pride Park, though he is unsure whether the Toffees would hold out until then.
He continued: “You take the job in a heartbeat (if you’re Rooney).
“If he could have it his way, I’m sure he’d say ‘listen, keep Big Dunc as the interim, let me keep Derby up and I’ll be there in the summer’ but that’s hugely unlikely.
“(Roberto) Martinez has got to relinquish going to the World Cup (with Belgium). You can see Rooney – boyhood club and Big Dunc is his mate, his idol growing up, knows the fabric of the club.”