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Rio Ferdinand didn’t hesitate to snub Ronaldo as toughest striker he ever faced, his pick was ‘most intelligent’

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Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand has admitted that one legendary former striker was his toughest opponent ahead of Brazil icon Ronaldo.

Rio Ferdinand had a prolific playing career at Old Trafford after iconic former manager Sir Alex Ferguson signed him from Leeds United in 2002.

The 45-year-old former Manchester United defender spent the majority of his Red Devils career under Sir Alex Ferguson and hoovered up the silverware at the club.

Ferdinand lifted six Premier League titles, a Champions League and two League Cups under Ferguson before the legendary Scotsman retired in 2013.

The footballer-turned-pundit is widely considered one of the best centre-backs in Premier League history after his remarkable partnership with Nemanja Vidic.

Ferdinand played under former United boss David Moyes after Ferguson’s retirement before he left Old Trafford in 2014 and went on to play for Queens Park Rangers.

READ MORE: Wayne Rooney raved about ‘incredible’ former Man Utd target who once ‘man-marked’ him, he worked out his weak spot

Manager and television pundit Jose Mourinho (C) looks on alongside Rio Ferdinand (L) after the UEFA Champions League 2023/24 final match between Bo...

Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

During his time on the international stage with England and his extensive club career, Rio Ferdinand crossed paths with several legendary former players.

The Manchester United legend shared the pitch with Ronaldo, who is widely considered one of the best strikers of all time, at the 2002 World Cup.

Ferdinand was also in the heart of defence for United on the night that Ronaldo scored a famous hat-trick for Real Madrid in the Champions League in 2003.

Ronaldo single-handedly knocked United out of the quarter-finals after he found the back of the net three times at Old Trafford in a memorable 4-3 second-leg win.

Speaking to Goal, Ferdinand took part in a ‘this or that’ challenge featuring devastating strikers and initially picked Ronaldo as his main choice.

Ferdinand had the 47-year-old former Brazil and Real Madrid striker ahead of the likes of Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero.

However, the former United and England defender didn’t hesitate to ditch Ronaldo the moment that Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp popped up.

Ferdinand stuck with Dennis Bergkamp ahead of the likes of Karim Benzema, Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before ditching the Arsenal hero at the final hurdle.

The ex-England international picked Real Madrid legend Raul ahead of Bergkamp, with Ferdinand saying that he is “one of the hardest” he has played against.

READ MORE: Wayne Rooney claims ‘incredible’ former Man Utd target is his country’s best-ever player ahead of two club legends

Ferdinand on his admiration for Raul

Ferdinand previously recalled his experience of playing against Raul and praised the former Madrid star for being the “most intelligent player” he played against.

Speaking to UEFA’s official website in 2013, he said: “Raul was just difficult to get up against.

“He played off [the front] and asked you the question: ‘Do you want to come in here and mark me? If you come in here, someone else will run in the space that you leave or I’ll just get it, turn and play it in the space that you leave.’

“In terms of making you think, he definitely was the most intelligent player I’ve played against.”

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