Rio Ferdinand criticism baffles Tom Cleverley as aging Manchester United star proves his defensive class

By Dean Wilkins

Tom Cleverley is baffled by the criticism his Manchester United teammate Rio Ferdinand still receives after another sterling show against Newcastle.

The 33-year-old centreback may have been forced out of a developing England squad but his place is still firmly cemented in Sir Alex Ferguson’s back four, and he has impressed his peers alongside Jonny Evans.

Gareth Bale tore the aging defender to pieces during Tottenham’s 3-2 victory at Old Trafford, but Ferdinand gave polished performances against Liverpool and Newcastle .

“People were doubting Rio but he’s had one bad game in about six months,” Cleverley told MUTV. “He was fantastic along with Rafael, Patrice [Evra] and Jonny [Evans] for anyone doubting our defence.

“We have conceded a few goals due to some small mistakes this season but that’s a team thing – not just the defence. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff I read about Rio in the week. It’s definitely not deserved is that.”

Evans – whose powerful head gave United an early lead at the Sports Direct Arena – has discovered the form he and Ferdinand shared earlier in the year.

And with captain Nemanja Vidic set for another two months on the sidelines, the Northern Ireland international hailed his partnership with the ex-Leeds and West Ham man.

“The thing with Rio is that he is so experienced,” the 24-year-old said. “He cruises through games.

“He comes off at the end and there is not a bit of sweat on him, he could probably play on and on. But that just shows the quality he has got and the experience.”

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