Man City icon got ‘Merked’ by Rio Ferdinand – but was too afraid to get him back’

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Shaun Wright-Phillips has opened up about the time he got pranked by Rio Ferdinand as part of the Manchester United star’s World Cup Wind-Ups show

Remember Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup Wind-Ups? Shaun Wright-Phillips certainly does.

Ahead of the international tournament extravaganza in 2006, roguish Rio went around pranking – sorry ‘merking’ (gosh, weren’t people cool back then?) – his England team-mates in elaborate, toe-curling stitch-ups.

The prank he pulled on Wright-Phillips involved an overzealous waiter refusing to leave him alone while he was out for a meal with Chelsea club-mate John Terry, who was in on the hoax. After eventually getting fired, the waiter was forcefully dragged out of the building, with the restaurant manager blaming Wright-Phillips for ‘encouraging’ his behaviour. It’s excruciating stuff.

Nearly 20 years have passed since then, but there’s every sense Wright-Phillips still shudders when he thinks about it. Recalling the prank while speaking exclusively to Daily Star Sport, via Betway Sports Betting, he said: “It was just so awkward. I didn’t know what was going on.

“I was just trying to have a meal with my friends but I understood where the waiter was coming from. I just tried to deal with it. JT [John Terry] gassed me up.”

When asked if he ever fancied exacting a little revenge on Ferdinand, Wright-Phillips explained: “I never really pulled pranks because I’d be on edge for the rest of the season. It’s a long season if you’re watching your back all the time.”

The former midfielder, who had two separate spells at Manchester City, claims his former club are just as big as Manchester United now, especially after winning the Treble. The 41-year-old acknowledged that United had more of a storied history, but argued City’s decade of dominance over their neighbours put the two clubs on a par with one another.”Man Utd have been a very big team for a very long time. You can’t really brush away what they’ve achieved in the past. At the same time everything that’s happening in the present is all blue, it’s all Man City,” he told us. “One thing people always said is they’ve never won the Champions League, then they year they win it they match Man Utd by winning the Treble. The second team to do it in England.

“Around the world globally they’ll be a few more Man Utd fans, but City are catching them fast. I’ve been on a few trips with the club in recent years and the fanbase is growing so quickly. I think the clubs are around about the same now [in terms of size].”