Goal.com 50: Rio Ferdinand (24)

Goal.com continues to count down our 50 best players of 2008-09, and at No. 24 is the world's most expensive defender, Rio Ferdinand…

25. Diego Milito (Genoa & Argentina)

 24. RIO FERDINAND (Manchester United & England)

23. Felipe Melo (Fiorentina & Brazil)

Rio Ferdinand described 2008 as his greatest year in football and it was at the end of that calendar year that Rio picked up, as captain, the World Club Cup in Japan. It was the third piece of silverware that the Red Devils claimed last year, following the capturing of the Champions League and the Premier League title the previous summer.

United defeated LDU Quito by a goal to nil in December; a familiar score-line for the Red Devils in the 2008-09 season.

Marching towards an 18th title, United set a new record of clean-sheets, 14 in a row, in Premier League competition that provided the bedrock to their most recent triumph.

Of that, Ferdinand was a integral part. The 30-year-old featured eight times in that sequence as he rehabilitated himself from a niggling injury. When he wasn't there, young Jonny Evans, you can bet, was using every bit of advice he'd gleaned from the master.

Rio provided, as usual, a sure-footed and assured presence in the back-line. Along with defensive colleagues Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, Ferdinand formed 80 per cent of the back five for the 2008-09 PFA Team of the Year.

His appearance in this year's edition of the dream team marks his third consecutive selection, and his fifth overall.

Combined with that, Ferdinand merited a place on the shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year, an accolade that went ultimately to his club mate, Ryan Giggs.

Ferdinand played 24 times as United topped the league yet again and that marked the same number of clean-sheets kept by Sir Alex Ferguson's side over the course of the season.

In the domestic cups, too, Ferdinand played his part; he was the winning captain of the 2009 Carling Cup final, against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley as United overcame the Londoners on penalty kicks.



Cup-winning captain | Rio lifting yet more silverware

They could not replicate their accuracy from 12 yards against Everton in the FA Cup semi-finals though, as the Toffees squeezed out the favourites with Rio coming up short from the spot.

However, the elegant centre-back was his usual resilient self in the Champions League. United conceded only one goal in the knock-out stages en-route to the final, when Barcelona ultimately eclipsed their English counter-parts and snatched away their continental crown.

At international level, Ferdinand's performances have been at the top level too; England conceded only four goals and registered four wins with Ferdinand in the line-up during the opening round of World Cup qualification. The Three Lions are all but assured of their place at next year's South African event, with Fabio Capello's side finally living up to their individual reputations.

There has been a gradual maturation in Ferdinand's game during his time at Manchester United and he has flourished into one of the world's most accomplished defenders. With the World Cup looming and United seeking to re-assert themselves in Europe next term, there is every chance that Rio could remain an vital cog in both wheels.

2008-09 HONOURS

Manchester United
Community Shield 2008
Club World Cup 2008
League Cup 2009
Premier League 2008-09

Individual
PFA Premier League Team of the Year 2008-09

Peter Staunton, Goal.com

25. Diego Milito (Genoa & Argentina)

 24. RIO FERDINAND (Manchester United & England)