On this day: Manchester United sign Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand celebrates with the Manchester United supporters at the Etihad Stadium on December 09, 2012.
© Getty Images
Twelve years ago today, Rio Ferdinand became Britain's most expensive footballer when he signed for Manchester United from rivals Leeds United.

The 2000-01 Champions League campaign was a memorable one for Leeds United. They rubbed shoulders with the likes of Barcelona, AC Milan and Real Madrid on their way to reaching the semi-finals, where they would fall short against Valencia.

Nevertheless, Elland Road was a positive place to be as supporters dreamed of their side replicating the sort of success that the club had enjoyed under Don Revie's guidance in the 1970s.

Such was the belief that chairman Peter Risdale had in manager David O'Leary and his squad, he borrowed a reported £60m against future gate receipts, budgeting for the club's continued involvement in Europe's premier competition.

The team failed to qualify the following season, though, and consequently the club started to hemorrhage money, having spent over £100m on transfers. While the troubles had been kept largely in-house for a number of months, the first signs of the cracks were made public in the summer of 2002 as Manchester United made a move for Rio Ferdinand, who had joined Leeds from West Ham United two years earlier for a British-record £18m fee.

United's initial bid of £20m was rejected, but it was clear that Leeds needed to sell. It was a situation that saw Risdale fall out with O'Leary, who was consequently sacked. Terry Venables inherited the hotseat, but within the two weeks of his tenure, Ferdinand, having made 73 outings for Leeds, was off to Old Trafford for £30m - again a record fee for an English player.

Leeds may have been drowning financially, but the same could not have been said of their rivals from across the Pennines. The signing of Ferdinand, which was finalised 12 years ago today, meant that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had broken the British transfer record three times over the past 13 months following the arrivals of Ruud van Nistelrooy for £19m and Juan Sebastian Veron for £28.1m.

Upon his arrival, England centre-back Ferdinand told reporters: "I am leaving a great club in Leeds and I appreciate what they've done. Leeds went out on a limb to get me and not many would have done that. David O'Leary brought me on.

"However, I made my decision with my friends and family to come here and improve as a player. It was an easy decision. Opportunities like this do not come around that often. I don't want to sit around thinking about what I didn't do in my career."

Meanwhile, Ferguson added: "When you can identify a potentially great player you try to think about how you can possibly get him here. We knew it was a hard road, but we've got to the end of it. He is going to be a fantastic player.

"I am really pleased Rio has agreed to come to Old Trafford, he is a world-class defender with the experience of having played at the very highest level of the game, for club and country. He is also a fine young man who will fit into the squad extremely well and I am sure he will prove to be a big hit with the fans."

Ferdinand would go on to be a mainstay in the United defence for a number of years, winning six Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and the Champions League once before his departure to Queens Park Rangers earlier this summer.

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