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Rio return? Why 'unqualified' Ferdinand good shout for Man Utd job

COMMENT: Any management experience? No. What about coaching? Nah. Well, has he at least done some scouting? Nope again... But for all those crosses, there is a good argument to be made why Rio Ferdinand is a decent shout for the technical director's post at Manchester United.

Ferdinand's comments on Tuesday night were telling. Yes, he had met with former United teammate Edwin van der Sar. Yes, they had spoken about the Dutchman's new role at Ajax this season as chief executive. And yes, it was Ferdinand who initiated and drove the sit down. In the BT Sport studio, the former United defender refused to discuss whether he had actually spoken to Ed Woodward, the club's vice-chairman, about the directorship. But he also never denied it. Which for this column is already a tick in the positive column. These things are done on an understanding. A confidential basis. And too often people inside the game are given a free pass when blurting out what occurred at this interview or that. That Ferdinand was tightlipped on the reports of meeting with Woodward is a credit to him.

And that's just it with the former defender. Get beyond the cringy antics on social media. The Peter Pan profile. Behind that public persona is a very serious - and successful - businessman. Fashion. Entertainment. For over a decade now, Ferdinand has taken the passions he's had away from the pitch and transformed them into thriving businesses. And most importantly - at least for this column - created opportunities for a countless number of young people along the way.

He may not have done it in a football environment. But he has done it. He's employed people. He's managed people. He's been able to communicate ideas to those capable of turning them into reality.

Indeed, if Ferdinand is to be offered the job at United, this past decade has served as a similar apprenticeship to what Van der Sar experienced over five years at Ajax. The former goalkeeper eventually took the chief exec's job after spending five years learning about the business side of the club in the marketing department. Given Ferdinand's long cv, there'll be no need for any such schooling for him.

But what about the specifics of the job? Scouting players? Making transfer calls? Is Ferdinand capable of that? Well, there's no argument to say he is. But you can reason, given his success in various fields, he does have the wherewithal to make a success of whatever he throws himself into.

And who's to say this new technical director's position... the United version... who's to say the demands will be the same as always? Ferdinand will be driving transfer policy. No doubt. But it'll be a shared effort. Jim Lawlor will continue to have a major say. As will Woodward. The role Ferdinand takes could also involve working closely with the manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and acting as a liaison with the locker room. A role Solskjaer's predecessor Jose Mourinho felt was missing during his three seasons with the club.

If you ever spot Ferdinand during international week. Just wait a moment. There'll soon be an England player seeking him out. Young. More experienced. They gravitate towards him. He has that pull. A friendly authority. At least with those he regards as peers. And you suspect it's that respect Ferdinand naturally commands which Woodward identified in head-hunting the former England international for this role. United need to get a grip of this dressing room. The manager can't do it on his own. He needs allies - especially if he's to "reset" the culture amongst squad.

As Solskjaer said not a fortnight ago, "You can't tell players to do all the same things we did when I played. That would be naive. But there were certain things we did when I was a player - and that's what I am talking about in terms of culture.

“I'm talking about how the manager trusted us. About how we had to take ownership as a group and as a team.He trusted us and if you stepped out of bounds then it was unfortunate for you that you wouldn't stay here long. That's the way it has to be at a club like this."

Ferdinand would assist in this. More so than Mike Phelan, Solskjaer's No2 (though for how long?). The current squad all grew up watching Ferdinand play. They know his achievements. And as such, his opinion carries weight.

Which is why Sam Allardyce's recommendation for the job won't even get a chance of an interview. Trust Big Sam to deliver a heavy dose of reality. Of course he's right. The best qualified ex-player for the job is Bryan Robson. A genuine legend. The manager who convinced Juninho, Branco, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Christian Karembeu to all join him at Middlesbrough. The manager who pushed West Brom to get serious about their academy. An academy which would later produce the likes of Izzy Brown, Saido Berahino and Jerome Sinclair. In a perfect world. Where merit matters. Robson would walk this job.

But at 62, that connection to the dressing room just isn't there. For United in their current state, the club needs someone closer the players' age.

Ferdinand isn't a Robson. But he does have the professional experience - and success - to suggest he could adapt to the demands this new role will bring. United's former No5 is a decent shout for this newly created technical director's post.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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