Manchester United are to undertake another major break with the past, parting company with Rio Ferdinand this summer after deciding not to renew his contract
Ferdinand is understood to feel that he is fit and healthy enough to stay on in the Premier League, having already received a number of offers. Though he suggested last night that the decision had been his, United indicated otherwise. The timing of the club’s announcement – informing him in the dressing room after Sunday’s last game against Southampton – did not give Ferdinand the same opportunity to receive an Old Trafford farewell that Nemanja Vidic was granted in the last home game against Hull City, six days ago.
Ferdinand communicated to his team-mates that the 1-1 draw at St Mary’s was his last game on the flight to Manchester and asked them to sign a match ball as a memento. Fans expressed dismay last night that there had been no formal parting.
Ferdinand said: “Circumstances didn’t allow for me to say goodbye the way I would have liked but I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my team-mates, staff, the club and the fans for an unbelievable 12 years.”
In pictures: Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United
With Vidic off to Internazionale, United are likely to seek to develop Phil Jones as a permanent centre-half, as well as look to secure a reinforcement. Ferdinand may be destined for North America, were Major League Soccer gives him the chance to develop his #5 brand and website, which he chose to make last night’s announcement.
After interim manager Ryan Giggs’s first match three weeks ago, Ferdinand indicated that he was interested in staying at Old Trafford. When Giggs was asked why he had not included Ferdinand in the squad to face Hull he said Ferdinand’s farewell had been planned for the previous Saturday against Sunderland.
“His kids were mascots. I tried to organise it when I took over, different permutations,” Giggs said. But if Ferdinand’s exit had been finalised by then, there could have been a presentation for a player who made 455 appearances and was one of the bastions of Sir Alex Ferguson’s last decade at the helm. After joining from Leeds United for a club record £30m in 2002, he helped United win six league titles, two League Cups, one Champions League and a Club World Cup. He was 17th on the all-time United player appearance list and only six defenders played more games for the club.
Though Ferdinand had made only 12 starts this season, the departure of two experienced defenders adds to United’s huge task in the transfer market this summer. The club feel that more than six new acquisitions would be too disruptive to the core of the squad.
Ferdinand said: “I have thought long and hard over the last few months about my future, and after 12 fantastic years playing, for what I regard, as the best club in the world, I have decided the time is right for me to move on.
“I joined Manchester United in the hope of winning trophies, and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how successful we would be during my time here. There have been so many highlights, playing alongside some great players who have become good friends, winning my first Premier League title and also that fantastic night in Moscow are memories that I will cherish forever.
“I am feeling fit and healthy, ready for a new challenge and looking forward to whatever the future holds for me.”
Louis van Gaal, who will today hold his first press conference since emerging as the lead contender for the Old Trafford job, is highly likely to be named as David Moyes successor later this week, though United will not ask him to interrupt his World Cup preparations by leaving the Dutch national camp at Hoenderloo for Manchester, to mark his appointment.
Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus has appeared to dismiss the idea of joining United. “It’s safe to say I will be playing for Borussia Dortmund in the 2014-15 season,” he has said.
“Basically I do not need to stress all the time that I am feeling great being with the club.”
Rio Ferdinand: fact file
1978: Born November 8, Peckham.
1995: Turns professional with West Ham.
1996: May - Makes West Ham debut as substitute in draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
1997: February - Scores first West Ham goal in defeat at Blackburn.
November - Becomes youngest defender to play for England when he makes debut against Cameroon at Wembley.
1998: Named in Glenn Hoddle's England World Cup squad but does not play at tournament in France.
2000: Left out of the England squad for Euro 2000 by Kevin Keegan. Makes British record £18million move to Leeds in November.
2002: Scores first England goal in 3-0 win over Denmark in World Cup second round.
July 21 - Leeds agree to sell Ferdinand to Manchester United for £29.1million, making him the world's most expensive defender.
2003: May - Earns first Premier League winner's medal.
October - Reported to the Football Association for failing to attend a drugs test, and left out of England squad for Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey because of the controversy.
December 18 - Receives eight-month ban and £50,000 fine over missed drugs test.
2004: January 20 - Ferdinand begins his ban, which means he misses Euro 2004.
2005: August 8 - Agrees new four-year deal with United.
2007: November 21 - Absent through injury as England lose 3-2 to Croatia at Wembley and fail to qualify for Euro 2008.
2008: March 26 - Captains England for the first time and wins his 65th cap in 1-0 defeat in France.
May 15 - Signs new five-year United deal.
May 21 - Captains United to a Champions League final victory over Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out in Moscow.
2009: May 16 - United wrap up third successive Premier League title.
May 27 - Part of United team beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in Champions League final.
2010: February 5 - Succeeds John Terry as England skipper after Chelsea defender is stripped of post by manager Fabio Capello following allegations about Terry's private life.
June 4 - Ruled out of World Cup after injuring ligaments in his left knee in training.
2011: March 19 - Loses England captaincy to Terry, ahead of Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales.
May - Wins another Premier League title with United - his fifth. United lose 3-1 to Barca in Champions League final at Wembley.
2012: February - Rules himself out of the running to captain England after Terry is stripped of the duty pending the outcome of a July trial. Terry is due to answer a charge of racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, but is later acquitted.
May 16 - Left out of England's squad for Euro 2012. He later writes on Twitter: "Absolutely loved playing for england... to say I'm gutted is an understatement of the highest order..."
August 17 - Fined £45,000 by the FA for acknowledging a tweet which referred to Ashley Cole - who gave evidence in defence of John Terry in his trial - as a 'choc ice'.
December 9 - Struck by a coin thrown from the crowd at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium as United claim a 3-2 derby victory.
2013: March 5 - Escapes UEFA action after sarcastically applauding Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir at the end of home defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
March 14 - Recalled to the England squad for World Cup qualifying matches against San Marino and Montenegro but pulls out four days later due to concerns over a long-standing back injury.
March 21 - Forced to defend his decision to fly to Qatar to work as a television pundit for England's game against San Marino. Hodgson responds by saying he will "wait and see" when asked about Ferdinand's international future.
May 15 - Announces his retirement from England duty.
May 23: Signs a new one-year deal with Manchester United.
2014: May 12: Announces he has not been offered a new contract and will leave United after 12 years at the club.
PA contributed to the writing of this story
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