by David McDonnell
Rio Ferdinand has hailed Manchester United's team spirit as "the best" in his time at Old Trafford and claimed it will carry Sir Alex Ferguson's side to a 10th Premier League title.
United are closing in on back-to-back titles and Ferdinand, one of their outstanding performers, pointed to the togetherness of the squad as a key factor in their push for another domestic crown.
"The team spirit is the best it's been since I've been here," said Ferdinand.
"Obviously I can't say what it was like before my time, but I've never known it any better.
"I can only assume the manager does extensive research into a player's personality before signing him because we've not had one bad apple.
"Everyone's brilliant, especially the foreign lads - Nani, Anderson, Ji-Sung Park, Patrice Evra, Carlos Tevez, Tomasz Kuszczak ... the list goes on.
"They all get involved in the banter and as soon as they join the club we welcome them. If you're wearing bad clothing you'll get hammered whether it's your first day or you've been here 10 years.
"If the lads think you've done something funny, they're not shy in telling you about it."
Ferdinand, set to be made United's permanent captain next season, has made 49 appearances for the Reds during the season, with only Wes Brown on 50 making more.
Although competition for places is fierce, Ferdinand claims the unity in the squad is such that none of Fergie's players throws a strop when they are left out.
"You'd think people would moan when they're not playing," said Ferdinand.
"But you can't complain because we constantly have five internationals on the bench.
"Players bring different things to the team and the manager makes his selection according to the games. We understand that and know it is all about the bigger picture. You might not play in a particular match, but it is a long season and you will get your chance."
Although United are nearing the end of a gruelling campaign which holds the promise of further glory in the Champions League Final against Chelsea, Ferdinand insists he is far from exhausted.
"I don't feel tired at all," he said. "When this point of the campaign rolls around, you've got to go the extra mile if you want to pick up trophies.
"I was a little concerned when I had to come off against Middlesbrough last month. I was thinking: 'What's going on? This can't be happening'.
"But that foot injury healed a little, and then I went and played against Roma."