Manchester United may have finished well behind their noisy neighbours in the English Premier League (EPL) but Rio Ferdinand believes the no-nonsense Louis van Gaal is the man who can silence champions Manchester City.
The centre-back, who announced the end of a glorious 12-year career ahead of his arrival in Singapore on Tuesday for the SG Game On! Ultimate Selfie challenge, is sure the Dutchman is the solution to the Red Devils' woes.
The 35-year-old made the comments at a media conference held at SingTel's ComCentre headquarters to mark the start of the two-day campaign - jointly organised by the telco and Samsung.
"From what I've seen and heard, he seems very strong and direct," Ferdinand said of van Gaal, who is expected to be named the new United manager next week.
"He's very certain about what he wants to do and doesn't deviate from it; at a club like Manchester United, you need to be like that. You need to have strong values, strong opinions and the will to follow them through."
Yesterday, the former England captain beat City star striker Sergio Aguero in the challenge of posting a selfie with the most retweets - which prompted the quip: "At least we won something this year!"
But Ferdinand's trip to Singapore is tempered by his depature from Old Trafford. The topic clearly struck a raw nerve.
"Doesn't mean anything now," he intoned when reminded of the six league titles he won with the club.
"Coming here has been a blessing in disguise, being able to get away from the hype and stuff."
But the defender admitted that the sight of their cross-town rivals lifting a second title in three years was unpleasant.
"It's never enjoyable watching another team win something that you consider your own," he lamented.
"We've always had a big rivalry with City but they've been challenging more in the last three years. It was always more Liverpool but now I'd say it's very similar in terms of rivalry."
Speaking through an interpreter, Aguero agreed.
"The rivalry will go on," the 25-year-old said. "But the best team will always come out on top and hopefully, that'll be City.
"The club is continuously growing and we must keep moving forward in that regard."
And while Ferdinand is set to give his future some serious thought, the veteran who retired from international duty last year with 81 caps is content to enjoy his Singapore stay for now.
Yesterday, he and Aguero took selfies while learning Singlish, practising tai chi, playing keepy uppy and having lunch at Maxwell Food Centre.
The latter comprised dishes such as chicken rice, beef noodles, fried carrot cake and durian.
Unhealthy fare perhaps, for athletes in a sport that requires superior levels of fitness. But as Ferdinand pointed out, "I've got nothing to be fit for".
But not even Aguero - set to begin World Cup preparations with Argentina next week - could resist the local cuisine.
Of the City striker's first experience of hawker fare, Ferdinand joked: "Sergio looked like he hadn't had breakfast in a week!"
This article was published on May 16 in The Straits Times.
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