x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Rio Ferdinand's own folly

Rio Ferdinand displays a temperament shared by his teammate, Wayne Rooney, and manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and it is just a ugly. And baffling.

Joleon Lescott, left, and Roberto Mancini, manager of Manchester City, centre, hold back Rio Ferdinand, who let Mario Balotelli push his buttons in City’s 1-0 win over Manchester United.
Joleon Lescott, left, and Roberto Mancini, manager of Manchester City, centre, hold back Rio Ferdinand, who let Mario Balotelli push his buttons in City’s 1-0 win over Manchester United.

Oh dear. Maybe Rio Ferdinand should have spent less time worrying about the Ivory Coast, after all.

You will recall that the Manchester United defender scolded the media last week for focusing on his teammate Wayne Rooney's foul-mouthed outburst into a live television camera, when we should have been earnestly discussing various conflicts in Africa. (Apparently he is unaware that some newspapers manage to write about more than one story per issue.)

It was a shame he shunned the extensive coverage of Rooney's outburst. Perhaps if he had glanced at a newspaper, instead of writing about himself all day on Twitter, Ferdinand would have realised that the English Football Association is clamping down on players who act like yobs.

He might also have realised that, like it or not, high-profile players from big teams - like, say, Rio Ferdinand from Manchester United - are more likely to be punished than some Johnny No-Name from the lower echelons.

With all that information in his capacious brain, perhaps Ferdinand would have thought twice before disgracing the end of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

Instead, this mature and allegedly intelligent man, a former England captain who had become a father again that very day, allowed himself to be wound up by Manchester City's Mario Balotelli.

Balotelli allegedly incensed Ferdinand by goading United fans after City's 1-0 victory.

He did this by thrusting his shirt crest at them - an action which some might say is considerably less offensive than screaming foul language into a television camera, which Ferdinand would presumably have considered no big deal.

The young Italian then winked at Ferdinand, which was simply glorious: a perfectly timed metaphorical slap in the face for a man who is clearly used to young pups showing more respect.

Watch the slow-motion replay if you can.

In the ensuing melee, a clearly enraged Ferdinand had to be held back by at least three people. He wanted to get to Balotelli, and the look on his snarling face made it pretty clear that he was not planning to discuss the war in Libya.

The irony of the situation is not hard to spot. Manchester United might well have won that match if both Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager, had not been serving bans which resulted from their volcanic tempers: the talismanic Rooney was banned for swearing, the tactical genius Ferguson was on a touchline ban for questioning the impartiality of referees.

Had those two been available, maybe United would not have lost the chance to win the FA Cup.

Their inability to control their rage has been their downfall.

You might think this is a problem they should address.

They will not, of course, because in their minds, the problem does not exist.

They have no flaws, you see, because they are perfect. Any alleged flaws are simply the fabrications of that pan-global conspiracy which is so obviously out to get them: jealous fans, petty bureaucrats and those mischievous guttersnipe journalists who really should be writing about something else.

But we don't. Because this stuff is just too much fun.

Red Bull are worried about who is listening in

Formula One has long carried more than a whiff of the classic man-movie Top Gun – that heady mix of testosterone, tanning oil and leather.

Perhaps it is something about the continuous whooping and high-fiving, but I have long-suspected that, once the cameras have packed up and gone home following another stressful grand prix, the drivers like to strip to the waist for a game of uber-butch, slow-motion volleyball.

Christian Horner, the Red Bull Racing team principal, added weight to this Top Gun theory – the general similarity, not the volleyball bit – last week, while defending the use of code words in radio communications between driver and team.

“There are specific call signs for aircraft,” he said.

“It’s the same for the military and it’s the same in Formula One.”

Hmmm, up to a point. I suppose one difference is that F1 is a sport.

Aerial warfare is not.

Another difference is F1 fans are supposed to hear and understand the radio messages as part of the entertainment, while the military has no obligation to allow the enemy to listen in.

In fact, in fighter pilot circles, it is considered quite a boon to keep such things secret, lest they should find themselves being shot down.

I do not, however, blame Horner for this obsession.

He was 13 when the movie was released.

Which man born in the 1970s can put his hand on his heart and truly claim not to have gunned the engine of his F-14 (by which I mean my mum’s Renault 5) and said: “I feel the need, the need for speed!”