Ferdinand shared an emotional chat with the Manchester United legend just prior to lifting the Champions League trophy in 2008.
Rio Ferdinand has recalled how an emotional meeting with Bobby Charlton reminded him of what it meant to be a Manchester United player.
Ferdinand’s greatest moment during a 12-year career at Old Trafford arrived in 2008 when he captained United to the Champions League title.
After a 1-1 draw with Chelsea in the Moscow showpiece, United won 6-5 on penalties to secure the club’s third European Cup, and second under Alex Ferguson.
And speaking on his Vibe with Five YouTube show, Ferdinand recalled how a brief conversation with United legend Charlton helped him realise the magnitude of the achievement and what it meant to the club.
“That moment is one of those moments that will never leave my body, ever,” recalled Ferdinand.
“When he came and spoke to me at the bottom of the stairs. I get mad emotional when I speak about it sometimes because there were so many different things going on around that moment.
“The fact that he took the time out to come and speak to me, he grabbed me – and I’d almost started crying at that point by the way, about something else – but the way he grabbed me, I was just like, ‘this guy is Mr Man United, man’.
“The words that he spoke just threw me, I thought ‘wow’ and it brought the enormity of what it was to be a Man United player and what it meant to Man United, the fans, the club, the history. He encapsulated it all within like 15 seconds, it was crazy.
“I was standing at the bottom of the stairs and I started getting emotional because I saw my mum climbing over lots of seats to get my attention. I could hear my mum screaming and it just reminds you of what your family have done to get you here.”
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) March 5, 2020
Charlton’s words hit home with Ferdinand. A colossal figure in United’s history, Charlton made 758 appearances for the Red Devils between 1956 and 1973.
Charlton was also one of nine United players to survive the Munich Air Disaster that claimed the lives of 23 people in February 1958, with United’s Champions League triumph in Moscow coming just three months after its 50th anniversary.
Ferdinand added: “I almost started blubbering and I remember Vida [Nemanja Vidic] saying ‘Rio, not here, man’.
‘It meant so much to me’ – Rio Ferdinand.
“Sir Bobby came just as we were going up and he came and grabbed me and started saying ‘Rio, not many captains have lifted this trophy, you’re going to be one of them’.
“He said ‘do you know what that means for this football club? What we had to go through, Munich, there have been lives lost on the way – this is history and you’re part of it, your team are part of it’.
“He said ‘go and lift that, go and enjoy it’. Until you go to Man United and you walk through them corridors, you don’t understand what it is, it’s weird.
“To have someone like that, who’s been through all of that and is still coming to away games despite getting old, still desperate to be a part of it, for him to take out that little bit of time, to me just meant so much.
“He said ‘I know what it feels like and I know this will never leave you’.”
Ferdinand went on to say that he could not imagine the Glazers offering such powerful sentiment during a trophy presentation amid the ongoing debate over the American family’s ownership of United.
Rio Ferdinand on Man United protests.
On the United supporters’ protests that forced the postponement of the game against Liverpool on Sunday, Ferdinand said he was ‘taken aback’.
“I have to say I’m with the fans,” he said.
“I can’t be any other side of the line. I’m where the fans are. Yes, we don’t want violence, I’m not condoning violence or any kind of law-breaking at all, but these fans have been shunted aside.
“This is the response you get when things like this happen and when you try to take over a club and take it away from the fans.”
You can watch Ferdinand discuss the protests from 2:04 in the video below, and Charlton from 26:38.