Rio Ferdinand tells Jonathan Fadugba about facing West Ham, leaving Manchester United and returning to London with Harry Redknapp's QPR...
What's it like playing against West Ham? You’ve beaten them more times than you've lost...
It's normally been good; as you’ve said, the record’s good. But we’ve lost a couple of games and they were at important times in the season when we were going for leagues, or when were on good runs and they beat us. My brother scored in one, which was bad… But the fans have been great with me whenever I’ve been back so that’s been a really good thing. I left on good terms at West Ham and as I said the fans have really given me good receptions.
West Ham fans generally seem to dislike Man United quite a lot – ask Paul Ince – but you seem to get a good reception. Do you have any theories as to why?
I just think the way Paul Ince left was a bad way to leave, that’s why. And that’s why he got hammered. But the way I left was they accepted a bid; I didn’t ask to leave. I used to go in the chairman’s office all the time and say “Are we going to buy any players or what?” because we were young players then. And he used to say this and that, not really answer, and then they accepted an offer. And once they accepted an offer it was kind of out of my hands. I said yes and then we went. So the fans knew it wasn’t me pushing to leave.
Was it weird going back? Did you feel strange?
Yeah. I scored! For Leeds. And I thought ‘woah’. I couldn’t celebrate. And again I think that added to my good reception over the years because I didn’t celebrate when I scored and the respect was there. It was weird going back as a Leeds player. It was just like… [puffs out cheeks] a lot of nerves.
Were you worried about the reception, maybe, or just how the game would go?
Yeah, the fans and stuff and just playing against my mates. It was mad.
Your brother scored in one of the games in 2007. How was that and how much stick did you get after that one?!
No, he didn’t give me no stick because he knows I don’t like it. And I’m his big brother. But I had all my family in a box, there was about 30 friends and family in the lounge after. And I remember I just went straight home. Got on the bus and went home. And my mum’s texting me, my dad’s ringing me saying, “Where are you?” and I just don’t answer the phone because I’m just sulking! But that’s the way it is, I can’t help it.
Are you allowed to elaborate on the background behind leaving Manchester United?
Ryan Giggs was the manager at the time and if he’d continued I would have stayed on – we had that conversation. So at that point I thought I was staying next season, really. I thought I had a good chance of staying on if we won and did well in the last four games. It didn’t happen: Giggsy didn’t get the job and then the club said that I wasn’t going to be there. So the opportunity to say bye in that final home game against Hull didn’t happen. And then obviously against Southampton on the last weekend I didn’t get the opportunity again to say goodbye because the club hadn’t notified me early enough.
Hadn’t notified you that you’d be leaving or…
Yeah, that I was surplus to requirements. But as I said after that, you don’t always get that fairytale ending so you’ve just got to kind of take what you get. That’s the way my cards were dealt and you just get on with it.
At the Hull game, were you thinking "This could be my last game at Old Trafford" or "If I play well I could stay on here"?
It was the last home game of the year. So as I was walking around the stadium clapping the fans and I was almost thinking to myself, “this could be my last one. I’m not sure. I don’t know.” And I was thinking it would be sad if I don’t get to do this properly and have to leave… but… [trails off] …it’s hard. I was there for 12 years, you know what I mean? It’s not like Leeds where I was for just 16 months or whatever it was and then I left, this was a long time. I made a lot of friends. There’s a lot of people that I’ve built good relationships with. So…
Let’s be honest: you didn’t enjoy your time that much under David Moyes.
Is that just because you weren’t playing? Was that the main reason?
Yeah. Because I’m not playing and… I mean that’s another reason why I wrote my book because I wanted to explain a few things. A lot of people had misconceptions out there – people were saying we didn’t try under the new manager and we weren’t happy. That was a load of rubbish. And I elaborate quite a lot on that in my book, some of the dynamics that went on behind the scenes But it’s an honest, fair assessment of that year. That’s why we called it 2 Sides really: there are two sides that I’ve seen to management in my time at Man United. Winning and losing. But it will give people a true reflection of what happened, I think. And how I saw things.
How strange was it going from a team that was winning titles to finishing seventh? How important in your opinion is the manager’s role?
It’s huge. But this made me realise that, I didn’t know that before because under Ferguson I was playing. But this situation with a new manager coming in – the way he coaches, the way he sees things, the way he puts things out on the training field etc. The difference between that, one side of him [Moyes] doing it and the other side of Ferguson doing it is huge.
Can you explain how it actually manifests itself? I suppose it’s like any job in a way, if you go to a new job and your new manager has different methods to your old manager there can be issues, but how does that actually manifest itself? People from the outside will say well if you’re a good football player you should be good under any manager…
Yeah but it’s the same as anybody in any walk of life, like you said. If you’re not used to certain things and you’re not comfortable in those situations it can affect your performance, whether you’re a man who’s delivering eggs, delivering milk or playing football. If certain things aren’t running as smooth as they normally do on your route to producing the goods every week, you might not produce or be on time for what you’re meant to be doing. And that’s the same as football. People think because you’re getting paid a lot of money it shouldn’t come into consideration. But it doesn’t work like that.
What would you say then are the differences between Moyes, Ferguson and now Redknapp?
Redknapp is really a people person – he gives you lots of confidence to go and play football and makes you feel free on a football pitch to try anything. Ferguson gave you a winning mentality and a desire to produce your best every given day that you train and play football. And a work ethic and freedom to play. And Moyes... and Moyes... Erm... [long pause]
You’re not there now so you can say whatever you want, it doesn’t really matter!
I don’t know, he just... it’s different because he didn’t play me. All the other managers I’ve just mentioned there played me. He didn’t play me. So in not playing me that takes away my confidence. But as a manager you couldn’t fault his work ethic. His desire and stuff like that.
So would you say he was responsible for giving you a lack of confidence?
The circumstances that I was in led me to losing confidence. And that’s natural as any footballer. It could have been any manager, David Moyes or anyone. If you don’t play me that means you don’t fancy me as a footballer. Which means I lose confidence.
Is it true he told you to play like Phil Jagielka?
No, no [laughs].
What’s the best thing about being back in London compared to Manchester?
The traffic is horrendous here. It’s disgusting, I have to go on the M25 to get round to Harlington, the training ground, so it’s just a nightmare. But no, there’s more things to do, restaurants, there’s a lot more choice of everything really. And more importantly I’m closer to friends and family. And that’s what I’m enjoying about London at the moment, being closer to a lot of people that I’ve not been able to see for many years because I’ve had to be very focused and single-minded staying in Manchester.
Someone reported that you might have retired had QPR not come in, is that true?
Yeah if I hadn’t come back to London I’d have retired, yeah.
#2sides – My Autobiography by Rio Ferdinand (Blink Publishing) is out now.
You’re on a one-year contract at QPR. Do you think this will be the final season of your career?
I don’t know, it’s one year with an option to extend so it depends how my body feels, I never talk about more than one year at this age.
How do you feel about life at QPR at the moment, are you enjoying it and what your general outlook for the season?
Yeah it’s just survival. That’s the aim of the game this season. So it’s different, a different mindset. Adjusting to that is part of it but yeah I’m enjoying it. I’ve joined a good squad of good lads who want to learn and want to be successful this season. So I feel I’m in a good place.
Do you think you’ll stay up then?
That’s the aim.