MANCHESTER: Veteran ex-England central defender Rio Ferdinand is leaving Manchester United after 12 years at the club.
Ferdinand has lost his place in the United first team over the last couple of years due to a series of injuries and because of the emergence of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.
His contract expires this summer and he has revealed he will not be signing an extension.
In a statement on his website, 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.”
Ferdinand moved to Old Trafford from Leeds in July 2002 for a then British record transfer fee of £29.1million, which also made him the world’s most expensive defender.
He won the Premier League title in his first season at the club and went on to lift the trophy five more times in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Ferdinand also won the Champions League in 2008 as the Reds beat Chelsea on penalties in the final in Moscow, as well as two League Cups and a Club World Cup.
His statement continued: “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.
“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 that I’ll never forget. Winning trophies I dreamed about as a kid came true at this great club.
“I am feeling fit and healthy, ready for a new challenge and looking forward to whatever the future holds for me.”