RIO FERDINAND is convinced fellow centre-half Gerard Pique would not have taken such giant strides in his career if he had remained with Manchester United.
Pique signed for United as a teenager in 2004 and went on to make 23 appearances in a four-year spell that was punctuated by a year on loan with Real Zaragoza.
Barcelona stepped in to take Pique back to his homeland in 2008 and within a year the cut-price £5million star had beaten United in the Champions League final. Twelve months later, he was in the Spain side which overcame Holland in the World Cup final.
This season, Pique made 31 appearances as Barcelona secured their third successive La Liga title, yet Ferdinand is not convinced Pique was suited to the more physical nature of English football and doubts whether he would have been a success at Old Trafford.
“Everyone knew Pique had talent,” said Ferdinand. “But English football is different. If you asked him if he could have been where he is now if he had been playing for Manchester United, he would probably have said, ‘I don’t know’.
“When you get a chance, you have to take it. He has gone to Spain, is winning trophies with Barcelona and is doing fantastically well, so you have to give him credit for that.”
Pique is one of the unsung heroes at the Nou Camp, but as it seems he will be partnered in central defence by Javier Mascherano at Wembley on Saturday, United should be encouraged to put pressure on the pair whenever possible.
Not that such a task is particularly easy when faced with the triple threat of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta at the other end of the pitch.
“There is not one single way you can stop Messi,” Ferdinand added. “You have to do it as a team.”
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