Rio Ferdinand’s most iconic moments for Leeds United, Manchester United and England

A Rolls Royce of a defender, the pundit enjoyed a glittering career at the top level, playing for West Ham, Leeds and Manchester United, as well as England.

Rio Ferdinand is one of England's most decorated soccer players, playing at the top level for West Ham, Leeds and Manchester United, as well as the national side.

He is mostly remembered for his time at Old Trafford, where he was a mainstay of the United team for over a decade and won six Premier League titles, the Champions League and the FA Cup.

With a host of memorable moments to choose from, Planet Sport has managed to narrow it down to the best seven.

Golden generation

Rio Ferdinand was one of a golden generation at the West Ham academy that would go on to do big things.

The academy, which thrashed Coventry 9-0 on aggregate in the final of the FA Youth Cup also featured Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick. All four players met in the 2008 Champions League final when Carrick and Ferdinand represented Manchester United and Cole and Lampard featured for Chelsea.

It was a day to remember for the two United players who won their first ever Champions League winners medals after defeating the Blues 6-5 on penalties.

Establishing himself for England

Ferdinand became the youngest defender to play for England, at the age of 19 years and eight days, when he came on in a friendly against Cameroon.

He made 81 appearances for The Three Lions, scoring three goals across a 14-year period.

Ferdinand makes his debut for England against Cameroon
Ferdinand makes his debut for England against Cameroon

After moving to Leeds United he discovered his best form and became a first-choice centre-back under Sven-Goran Eriksson. He would consistently play for England over the next ten years, joining John Terry in a successful defensive partnership.

He would go on to play ten World Cup finals matches for England, keeping an impressive seven clean sheets, and retired from international duty in 2013.

Controversial move

Leeds United signed Ferdinand from West Ham in 2000 for £18million which was a British transfer record and made him the world's most expensive defender. The huge price tag did not prove a burden as he helped Leeds to a Champions League semi-final and took over the club captaincy from Lucas Radebe.

However, his time in West Yorkshire came to a controversial end. In financial difficulty, Leeds were forced to cash in on their prize assets. Ferdinand forced through a move to Leeds' rivals Manchester United for a fee of around £30million, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of all those connected with the Elland Road club.

Ferdinand at his Old Trafford unveiling
Ferdinand at his Old Trafford unveiling

Last-minute winner against Liverpool

Ferdinand only scored eight goals for Manchester United but none were more vital than his late winner at Old Trafford against Liverpool in 2006.

It is one of the fiercest rivalries in the game and to score one of your few goals in this fixture really made United fans fall even more in love with the defender.

Ryan Giggs stood over a free-kick on the left and Ferdinand timed his run to perfection, rising highest to power the ball past a helpless Pepe Reina in the Liverpool goal.

Rio also scored another memorable goal against United's old rivals later that year in a 2-0 Old Trafford victory. Jamie Carragher's misplaced clearance fell the way of Ferdinand in the Liverpool box and he shaped to shoot on the volley but instead controlled the ball inside the defender. Then, on his left foot, he fired the ball into the roof of the net for what was perhaps the greatest goal of his career.

The partnership with Vidic

Known for his grace on the ball and pace while defending, Ferdinand shone most when he was paired with a physical partner, like Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United.

The two defenders brought out the best in each other and helped their club win five Premier League trophies, a Champions League and two League Cups before both departing in 2014.

The way the two complimented each other was a joy to behold and there can be no doubt that they are one of the greatest ever Premier League centre-back duos.

Clean sheet record

The dominance that Ferdinand and Vidic displayed for the Red Devils was reflected in their record number of consecutive clean sheets.

With Dutch icon Edwin van der Sar in between the posts, and Patrice Evra at left back, the United defence went a huge 1,302 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal in 2008/09 - a run that spanned four months.

The run helped them win the Premier League, League Cup, Community Shield and Club World Cup, while finishing runners-up in the Super Cup and Champions League.

Scoring the last goal at Old Trafford under Sir Alex

The 2012/13 season saw United reclaim the Premier League title from their neighbours Manchester City and Ferdinand's contribution was recognised as he was named in the PFA Team of the Year for the sixth time.

After five years without scoring a goal, Ferdinand ended the drought on a timely occasion. It was Sir Alex Ferguson's last game in charge of Manchester United against Swansea and one of the club's long-serving players managed to get on the scoresheet.

Striker Robin van Persie took a corner from the right and poor marking meant the 6ft 2in defender was left all alone to smash the bouncing ball in the net. The emotion on Ferdinand's face was clearly visible as he celebrated and the huge smile on Sir Alex's face said it all on a special day.

The defender left Old Trafford in 2014 and retired from professional soccer in 2015, but he will be remembered by Manchester United fans forever for his contribution to the club.

He is now a successful pundit on BT Sport and forms part of the punditry team for the BBC's coverage of Euro 2020.

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