Maradona makes Ferdinand's day

Rio Ferdinand enjoyed a 30th birthday to remember on Friday after Diego Maradona turned up with a surprise present at Manchester United's training ground.

New Argentina coach Maradona stopped off in Manchester to check on Ferdinand's United team-mate Carlos Tevez, and he demonstrated his diplomatic touch by making sure he had a signed shirt to hand over to birthday boy Ferdinand.

"We were like schoolkids around a star coming to school," Ferdinand admitted afterwards. "In my eyes he is the best footballer ever. He is one of my heroes, if not the shining beacon when I was a kid. I had all his videos. He was the player everyone wanted to be.

"He was the best. He was my idol and part of the reason why I started to play football. I can't hold him in higher esteem than that. To be able to shake his hand, get a cuddle off him and a picture, it made my birthday."

Maradona's presence also ensured United's players were unusually anxious to impress during Friday's training session.

"I think the gaffer would probably like him to come every day the way he raised standards in training," he added. "Everyone was trying to impress him. I hope he will go back to Argentina and say he's seen a great player - Rio Ferdinand!"

Ferguson added: "It was good. The players were all delighted to see him. It is arguable who is the best player in the world but without a doubt, he is in the best two or three."