Rio: Pique exit was right move
Pique signed for United as a teenager in 2004 and went on to make 23 appearances in a four-year spell that was punctuated by a year on loan with Real Zaragoza. Barcelona stepped in to take Pique back to his homeland in 2008 and within a year the cut-price £5million star had beaten United in the Champions League final. Twelve months later, he was in the Spain side which overcame Holland in the World Cup final. This season, Pique made 31 appearances as Barcelona secured their third successive La Liga title, yet Ferdinand is not convinced Pique was suited to the more physical nature of English football and doubts whether he would have been a success at Old Trafford. "Everyone knew Pique had talent," said Ferdinand. "But English football is different. "If you asked him if he could have been where he is now if he had been playing for Manchester United, he would probably have said 'I don't know'. "When you get a chance, you have to take it. He has gone to Spain, is winning trophies with Barcelona and is doing fantastically well, so you have to give him credit for that." Pique is one of the unsung heroes at the Nou Camp, but as it seems he will be partnered in central defence by Javier Mascherano at Wembley on Saturday, United should be encouraged to put pressure on the pair whenever possible. Not that such a task is particularly easy when faced with the triple threat of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta at the other end of the pitch. Up until a fortnight ago, Ferdinand had not watched a recording of the 2009 final, when United were pulled apart by the brilliant trio. Now he has, and he remains unmoved. "It didn't scare us," he said. "It actually brought home that it wasn't as one-sided as we imagined. We had a lot of chances." The failure of midfielder Darren Fletcher to play any part in Gary Neville's testimonial on Tuesday night indicated that United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has virtually given up on his fellow Scot having any meaningful involvement, which would be a major setback. Fletcher's mental application is among the best in the Premier League and although Anderson, the most obvious alternative, may have more pure ability, he has yet to show the positional discipline which will be required to subdue Messi and Co. "There is not one single way you can stop Messi," Ferdinand added. "You have to do it as a team. "All the games we have watched when anyone has played well against Barcelona, is when the whole unit plays well. "You have to defend as a team, cut down their angles and their space. Then you have a chance." Ferdinand has not particularly enjoyed the increased attention on the club in the build-up to the match - which was only increased yesterday by the current media storm surrounding midfield veteran Ryan Giggs. "You want to get the build-up out of the way," Ferdinand said. "At least we are sharing the load. I can only imagine what it is like for a boxer who has to do it by himself for two or three months." And the perception that Barcelona are favourites for the game has also not gone down well with the 32-year-old. "Every week something is being said, either by other teams or the media," Ferdinand continued. "But I don't mind Barcelona getting all the credit now. "I would prefer to be taking the plaudits on Saturday evening."