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Ferdinand defends under-fire Woodward for 'having balls', points the blame at Van Gaal's system

The ex-Manchester United stalwart doesn’t see his old club competing for the Premier League or the Champions League this season.

Ferdinand is working as a pundit on BT Sport's Champions League coverage this season.
Ferdinand is working as a pundit on BT Sport's Champions League coverage this season.
Image: C1 PHOTOGRAPHY

Updated at 21.00

FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED captain Rio Ferdinand has blamed Louis van Gaal’s style of play and not their transfer activity for recent shortcomings.

The Premier League club have splashed out £250 million (€340m) on new players in less than two years, but they also missed out on a number of top targets over the summer and ended up paying over the odds for French teenager Anthony Martial on deadline day.

As the man brought in to get deals done, many have pointed the finger at executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, but ex-England defender Ferdinand thinks he should be commended for attempting to bring world class talent to Old Trafford.

“Ed Woodward has come in for a lot of criticism of late, but at the same time I think you can’t expect every player that they go in for to be got,” said Ferdinand. “They’re not going in for mediocre players — there was talk of Neymar, Ramos and some of the best in the world in their positions.

There’s credit for having the balls to go for these type of players as they are the kind that Man United should be going for, but getting them has been hard over the last year or two.

“They got (Angel) Di Maria but it didn’t work out. He has been getting a fair bit of stick but he has put his balls on the table with a few of these players. For me, Di Maria was the perfect player for Man United but the philosophy didn’t suit his way of playing and that’s just the way it goes.

“At least they are in the market for these players. Woodward and the commercial team have to take great credit for the way they have commercialised the club and the amount of money that they are generating, but they have spent almost £250 million the last couple of years.

“Fuck, that’s a lot of money and you want to see trophies at the end of it so that is the pressure they are under now.”

Soccer - Ed Woodward File Photo Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward. Source: Martin Rickett

Incredibly, only nine of the first team squad from United’s title-winning side of 2013  – Wayne Rooney, David de Gea, Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Nick Powell and Sam Johnstone – remain after a major overhaul.

But Ferdinand, who departed for Queens Park Rangers in 2014, says the shift from free-flowing attacking football to Van Gaal’s predictable, possession-based system is just as worrying.

“Everything,” Ferdinand replied when asked what has changed since the Ferguson days. “In terms of players, the personnel are completely different. And they way they play. You associate Man United with pace and power, explosive fantasy in the final third, but that’s not the way it is now.

He (Van Gaal) has got a clear idea of how he wants the team to play. It’s very methodical — getting the ball through the team not very quickly, keeping it from side to side and waiting for an opening and a glaring opportunity to go forward.”

He added: “If I was a betting man I wouldn’t put money on United winning the league. Certainly not the Champions League. Do I see improvement from last season? Time will tell. Right now I don’t see a huge one.

“They are very far behind Man City, they were a huge amount of points behind Chelsea last year and they are there or thereabouts with Arsenal.”

BT Sport pundit Rio Ferdinand was speaking at the launch of BT Sport’s UEFA Champions League coverage for the 2015/16 season in London. BT Sport is only available to Irish viewers through the Setanta Sports Pack.

The Setanta Sports Pack will broadcast live coverage of all UEFA Champions League matches this season along with being the only place to see Liverpool, Celtic and Spurs in Thursday night’s Europa League. To subscribe visit www.setanta.com

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Ben Blake

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