SINGAPORE - Scoffing carrot cake, enjoying a morning tai-chi session and beating Argentina striker Sergio Aguero in a selfie competition proved a welcome distraction for Rio Ferdinand as he tried to move on from the disappointment of his Manchester United axing.
The former England defender's 12-year stay at Old Trafford ended after their 1-1 draw with Southampton in their final game of the English Premier League campaign on Sunday, with Ferdinand told by the club his contract would not be renewed.
Ferdinand released a statement admitting his disappointment at not being able to say goodbye to the fans he won six Premier League titles for before flying to Singapore for a promotional visit with Aguero.
The duo tried local food and visited landmarks, taking pictures of themselves to try and win a Twitter popularity contest as they were mobbed by local fans. "Coming out here has really been like a blessing in disguise," Ferdinand told reporters on Thursday when asked about the departure. "Being able to get away from all the hype and stuff, and I have really been enjoying my time here and I haven't really had much time to think about my next step. "In the coming days I'm sure I will start to do that and make a decision on what is going to happen but now I'm just throwing myself into this. I'm enjoying it and its taking my mind off of that." British media reported that United chief executive Ed Woodward told Ferdinand in the dressing room after the Southampton match that his contract would not be renewed.
The 35-year-old former West Ham United and Leeds United defender, though was keen to avoid the painful subject. "I wouldn't like to go into that at the moment, my statement at the end said all I needed to say," he said. "I wouldn't want this to become the Rio Ferdinand event. I'd rather sidestep, drop the shoulder on that question." Tucking into local treats, such as the sweet but smelly Singaporean fruit durian, the tall and imposing Ferdinand embraced the relaxed end-of-season environment.
Asked by one journalist how he planned to keep fit while tucking into the local cuisine, Ferdinand quipped: "Well I've got nothing to keep fit for." With his international career long over, Ferdinand will be watching how England fare in Brazil.
He identified holders Spain, hosts Brazil and Aguero's Argentina as the top three challengers for the trophy, but was pessimistic about England's chances of a second title. "If England get that far they will have done unbelievably well," he said, when asked about the possibility of an England-Argentina semi-final. "The squad we have is very young, inexperienced but exciting. It is very exciting seeing this group of players going to the tournament." There was no mention of how he thought the Dutch would get on in Brazil next month with their coach Louis van Gaal heavily tipped to take over from David Moyes at United next season.
Ferdinand believed the former Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Ajax Amsterdam manager had all the necessary qualities to help elevate United from their seventh-placed finish this term. "From what I have seen and heard from various people he seems very strong and direct and has a good knowledge and understanding of what he wants to do and very certain about what he wants to do and doesn't really deviate from that," he said. "And I think to be at Manchester United you need to be like that, strong values and strong opinions and a will to pull them through and he seems to fall into that category."