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When Stephen Ireland turned Rio Ferdinand into a shell of himself

Nedum Onuoha discusses how talented Stephen Ireland was and remembers one game in particular that showcased his special qualities.

Nedum Onuoha joined Off The Ball to discuss his career and Stephen Ireland.

Stephen Ireland was the best player at Manchester City in 2008.

Manchester City were a different team back then, but not so much so that it was easy to be the best player in the squad. Ireland scored nine goals and had nine assists in 35 games. Man City finished 10th in the league and Ireland was named the Player of the Year.

That squad featured the likes of Richard Dunne, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta, Nigel De Jong, Elano, Martin Petrov, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy, Robinho and Daniel Sturridge. It was a very talented squad that underachieved that year.

But while they underachieved, they did manage to beat Manchester United. Beat a Manchester United team that was still close to its peak as a football club.

Ireland should have kicked on when Roberto Mancini arrived. Instead, his club career meandered through different clubs and his Ireland career never really started at all. Former teammate Nedum Onuoha joined Joe Molloy to discuss his career and Stephen Ireland's career.

"Some of that is going to be down to Stephen's decision making," Onuoha said.

"I love Stevie Ireland. I started playing with him when I was 13 or 14 years of age, I'm now 35 and I'm still playing with him in five-a-sides and stuff. And he's still unbelievable. He's not played professionally for three years and he's unbelievable.

"So I know every time I play and I'm on his team, in a small-sided game or say in a first team game, if he plays well there's a very good chance we'll win. So if I play well, then maybe we won't lose. But for him it means there's a good chance he's going to win."

Ohuoha was a strong footballer himself. Injuries impacted his career negatively but during his best years he was a lightning quick defender who could excel on the interior or as a right back. He came through the youth system of Manchester City with Ireland and played on that 2008 team with him.

Ireland was the protagonist against Manchester United, according to Onuoha.

"One of my favourite games he ever played in was 2008 when we beat United at Old Trafford. Stephen was in and around the hole, playing as the 10. Rio Ferdinand was very good at passing the ball out from the back. And Stevie read where he was trying to pass the ball to probably 60% of the time to the point where Rio started double, triple, quadruple guessing himself.

"He's like a shell of himself, like a shell of a man. And this is Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford.

"And I thought to myself, this is because that's what he was, that's who he is...Stevie's the difference. It's a shame it didn't work out."

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Manchester City Manchester United Nedum Onuoha Premier League Rio Ferdinand Stephen Ireland