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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Why Rio's grand
Ferdinand is wanted by Venables and Ferguson

Manchester United may have been bitten once after paying out a British record 28.1m for Juan Sebastian Veron - but Sir Alex Ferguson is not twice shy when it comes to pursuing Rio Ferdinand.

Ferguson is still a confirmed Veron admirer, despite evidence he made an expensive error by disrupting the perfect balances of Manchester United's midfield in a rare barren season.

And the Veron experience has not diminished Ferguson's desire to break the bank again to land 30m-rated Ferdinand.

The reason is simple.

Rio Ferdinand is the player that can bring the title - and possibly even the Champions League - back to Old Trafford.

The same was said about Veron this time last year, but if there is any such commodity as a sure thing in football, it is the gold-plated guarantee that you are buying quality in Ferdinand.

There was a communal raising of eyebrows throughout football when then Leeds United manager David O'Leary paid 18m to take Ferdinand from West Ham United 18 months ago.

He had attracted firm interest from Liverpool and Manchester United, but the price tag proved prohibitive for a player who was not yet the finished article, and mixed undoubted class and promise with the occasional expensive lapse.

It is a clear sign of Ferdinand's development and maturity at Elland Road that the 30m price tag now placed on his head is merely regarded as the going rate for a defender who confirmed his world class during England's World Cup campaign.

Ferdinand is rightly seen by Ferguson as the missing link in a defence that sprung leaks alarmingly last season - but it was still a bold move by the Manchester United boss to pursue such an expensive target.

Ferguson has no doubts about Ferdinand's class

Ferguson not only targeted a key figure in England's team, he was attempting to prise away a prime asset from one of Manchester United's fiercest rivals.

Leeds United's fans hold their Old Trafford counterparts in contempt, and the wounds still exist from Ferguson's mugging of their club for Eric Cantona, the catalyst for all Old Trafford's years of glory.

Ferdinand will bring youth as well as class to Manchester United's defence.

He will provide added insurance to a rearguard that was vulnerable last season, as well as an ease on the ball that will sit comfortably with Manchester United's style.

And as a statement of renewed intent, it is a devastating blow by Ferguson in the direction of his Premiership rivals.

What better way to announce that you mean serious business than by breaking the British transfer record to remove the biggest talent from one of the other title contenders, as well as the player who is accepted to be the emerging star of England's team?

It looks right. It sounds right - and it is highly unlikely Ferdinand will prove as poor value for money as Veron.

The road to Rio will be an expensive one for Ferguson and Manchester United, but the evidence suggests it will be worth every penny.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Francis Collings
"It's a tough choice for Ferdinand"
Ferdinand's former boss Harry Redknapp
"Man Utd are very difficult to turn down"
Yorkshire Evening Post's Phil Rostron
"Venables will have charmed Rio"

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