By Matt Monaghan | Manchester United correspondent
Legendary Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson has given Rio Ferdinand his seal of approval to wear the armband for his country.
Thailand manager Robson, 53, who led United for 11 years and England 65 times, backed Ferdinand to excel after Fabio Capello named the United defender as his new skipper last week.
In an exclusive interview with Goal.com UK, Robson was convinced Ferdinand’s experience and ability made him the clear choice for the national team.
“Rio has matured as a man and he is a top-drawer player,” Robson said.
“I think he will take that responsibility of being the England captain and he’ll do a good job.”
Ferdinand’s team-mate for club and country, Wayne Rooney, was given special praise by Robson.
“Nothing surprises me with Wayne. People have criticised him at certain times saying he doesn’t score enough goals, but Wayne has fantastic ability.
“He’s got aggression in his game, he’s got the all-round winner's mentality and is a great player. Then you look at his age and what he has achieved already and that is just what winners do.
“Rooney and Cantona are different types of players, but he has got that same winning mentality that Eric had. I think that Wayne will stay around at United for a lot longer than Eric did, though.”
After spells managing Middlesbrough, Bradford City, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United, Robson became head coach of Thailand last autumn.
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The Thais sit in second place in Group E to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup and face a critical clash with Iran at the start of next month. Robson has enjoyed his time in the country and is optimistic that the team can get the right result in Tehran to make it to the tournament.
He said: “My first few months here have gone well. The people here are very generous and Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city.
“The standard isn’t bad for this part of the world but the one thing I would say is that there is a lot of improvement to be made here as the Thais are very passionate about their football.
“If we have all our best players fit and available for the game against Iran we have a reasonable chance. Iran have already won the group but it is in our own hands.
“I’m quite confident that the boys can give it a really good go and rise to the challenge of the hostile reception they’ll receive in Tehran.”
Robson is a global ambassador for Manchester United and helps keep Sir Alex Ferguson aware of talented players in south-east Asia. The link has seen him recommend 20-year-old Muangthong United shot-stopper Kawin Thammasatchanan to the Red Devils’ goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele.
“What I would do is because of my role with Manchester United is if I see a player who is absolutely outstanding in this part of the world I would always give Sir Alex a phone call and his staff can look at the player,” Robson said.
“Kawin Thammasatchanan is a very good goalkeeper, but he still has a long way to go. I’ve spoken to Eric Steele to maybe have a look at him. He’s a very good goalkeeper for 20 years of age but he has a lot still to improve.”