Rio Ferdinand brought his trophy-filled, 12-year stay at Manchester United to an end on Monday by announcing he would be leaving Old Trafford to continue his playing career. The 35-year-old Ferdinand, who became England’s most expensive player when he joined United from Leeds for 29.1 million pounds in 2002, has not been offered an extension to his contract that expires next month.
He suggested, however, that his departure was on his own terms, saying in a statement: “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.”
A tall, elegant, ball-playing defender, Ferdinand made 454 appearances for United – his last coming in the 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday in the final match of the season. He had been marginalized by the club this season, making just 14 appearances.
Ferdinand won six league titles, two League Cups, one Champions League and a Club World Cup with United and forged one of Premier League’s great center-back partnerships with Nemanja Vidic, who will also leave this summer to join Inter Milan. With left back Patrice Evra soon out of contract, too, whoever comes in as the full-time replacement for fired United manager David Moyes faces a huge task to rebuild the defense.
Ferdinand has had injury problems in recent years – particularly with his back – and has been following a strict training regime to extend his career, but he signaled he is not ready to retire. “I am feeling fit and healthy, ready for a new challenge and looking forward to whatever the future holds for me,” he added in the statement.