Rio impressed with Arsenal's young guns

Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand is encouraged by the exciting English talent coming through the ranks... even if the young Lions are being groomed at arch-rivals Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger’s rising stars have reached the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup, disposing of Sheffield United and Wigan along the way, with Jack Wilshere and Jay Simpson in particular stealing the limelight.

Speaking at an event organised by, England sponsors, Nationwide (available in's video interview section) Ferdinand, who once played the part of the teenage prodigy, confessed his admiration for the latest crop of wonder kids to come off the Gunners production line.

“It’s always good to see English talent," he says, "you’re always interested to hear about young English talent, wherever they’re playing.

“You like to cast your eye over them, have a little look and see how they’re doing. The other day there were a few playing for Arsenal and they looked like talented players.”

But the centre back was quick to warn the Gunners and the rest of the Premier League that United have an academy of their own bursting with frightening talent.

“We’ve got some talented players coming through at our club as well – the Academy at United is still doing a very good job.

“People are saying it’s drying up, but Man United have brought through a lot of players over the last seven or eight years, who are now playing not just in the Premier League but at all different levels of football.”

The defender insists the future of the national team was the driving force behind United’s youth policy.

“Everyone wants to bring out gems who can walk into the England team," he says. "That’s the hardest part, but that’s what we’re all gearing it towards.”

The current Three Lions’ side is at the forefront of Ferdinand’s attentions. Under the guidance of Fabio Capello, a rejuvenated England have made an impressive start to their World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign, bagging four wins from four to top Group 6.

England travel to Berlin to take on old foes Germany next Wednesday and it's a challenge that Ferdinand is relishing.

“It will be a tough game," the 30-year-old says. "Germany are a good team – they’ve got a lot of good young players and did well in the last tournament so it’ll be a very good game that we’re all looking forward to.”

And as far as Ferdinand’s concerned there’s no such thing as a friendly against Germany.

“It’s an important game against a rival and it’s another step towards hopefully becoming a more confident and complete team.

“Whether it be a friendly or a qualifier we want to win games, that’s the mentality the manager’s putting across to the players and that’s the mentality that we’re trying to make sure we’ve got when we go out for each and every game.”

Casting his mind back to 2001, when England destroyed Germany 5-1 at the Olympiastadion in Munich, Ferdinand reminisced with pleasure.

“They could probably have gone one or two goals up in the first few minutes of the game.

“Fortunately for us they didn’t hit the back of the net and from then it was like a fairytale – we went on to score five goals, Michael Owen got a hat-trick, Emile scored, and Steven Gerrard scored as well. It was great to be involved in. The thing I remember most is probably the big scoreboard in the stadium showing the score.”

“But saying that time moves forward and it’s seven years ago now, even if it feels like it was only yesterday.”

Rio Ferdinand was speaking at an event organised by England team sponsors, Nationwide Building Society.

Nationwide offer their international football tickets, VIP opportunities, mascots, signed shirts and training sessions back to their customers through t