Alex Ferguson must drop liability Rio Ferdinand NOW - MirrorFootball.co.uk
The ease with which Fernando Torres held off Rio Ferdinand to score at Anfield on Sunday proved the time has come for Sir Alex Ferguson to put his faith in Jonny Evans.
The warning signs over Ferdinand's sudden decline have been evident this season and against Liverpool his failings were laid bare in embarrassing fashion in such a high-profile game.
Three weeks ago Fergie sat alongside Evans at a Champions League press conference and admitted it was hard leaving him out of the first-team, such has been his rapid progress.
Not any more. Evans must be given his chance at the expense of Ferdinand, who has become a liability for United this season with a succession of calamitous mistakes.
Ferdinand's culpability for Manchester City's 90th-minute equaliser at Old Trafford was lost amid the controversy that surrounded Michael Owen's 97th-minute winner.
There followed more mistakes on England duty, culminating in Torres out-pacing and out-muscling Ferdinand to score on Sunday and set the platform for Liverpool's win.
It seems that whenever Ferdinand comes up against a striker with real pace like Bellamy or Torres he is found wanting, and his normally excellent reading of the game cannot compensate for that.
In fairness to Ferdinand, he has been injured this season, a torn groin muscle suffered on the eve of United's opening game with Birmingham ruling him out of the first month of the campaign.
Fergie insisted the injury was not related to the ongoing back problem which restricted Ferdinand to just 24 Premier League starts last season.
But it is clear Ferdinand, who turns 31 on November 7, is now a hostage to his body, having enjoyed a relatively injury-free career until he hit 30.
Questions must also be asked over whether his increasingly busy profile away from football is having a detrimental effect on his game.
Ferdinand has a huge commitment to his online magazine, which has seen him embark on a relentless promotion campaign and interview such luminaries as Gordon Brown, Usain Bolt and Roger Federer
And he was on the red carpet in London the Thursday before the Liverpool game, at the premiere of the gangster film Dead Man Running, for which he provided funding with Ashley Cole in his role as executive director.
Had Ferdinand's form not slumped, questions would not need to be asked over whether such extra-curricular activities were getting in the way of his football.
But with his form so wretched right now, such distractions away from football will inevitably -and rightly - come under scrutiny.
Evans has impressed whenever he has played for United, be it against Chelsea, Arsenal or in Europe, where he already made 10 appearances in a little over one season.
He has a composure and maturity beyond his 21 years, and radiates assurance to those defenders around him, unlike Ferdinand in his present state.
Fergie has never been afraid to make tough calls during his United reign and move players on when he feels they are on the wane and past their best.
That dilemma now confronts the United boss over Ferdinand, who has been one of Fergie's untouchables during a glittering seven-year spell at Old Trafford.
But perhaps the time has come for a changing of the guard in the form of Evans