Manchester United fans knew there was a chance it could happen, but it was still a blow when it was finally confirmed.
On Friday morning, United captain Nemanja Vidic announced his intention to leave Old Trafford when his contract expires at the end of the season, explaining that he wants a new challenge, per the Manchester Evening News:
It’s the last year of my contract and I have had eight wonderful years here. My time at this great club will always rank as the best years of my career.
I never could have imagined winning 15 trophies and I will certainly never forget that fantastic night in Moscow, memories that will live with me and the fans forever.
However, I have decided that I will move on at the end of this season. I want to challenge myself again and try to make the best of myself in the coming years.
I’m not considering staying in England as the only club I ever wanted to play for here is Manchester United and I was lucky enough to be part of this club for so many years.
I’ve got a few options to move on and I will choose the right one for me and for my family.
I am now going to focus all my efforts on playing for Manchester United and do the best I can for the team until the end of the season. I hope this stops any further speculation about my future.
Vidic, signed from Spartak Moscow for £7m in January 2006, has been a wonderful servant for United and deserves to bow out at a time of his choosing.
The supporters will always have memories of his titanic battles with Didier Drogba, literally knocking himself unconscious for the cause, and, of course, his song. "Nemanja, ohhhhh, Nemanja, ohhhhh. He comes from Serbia…"
But there will still be a certain amount of sadness that he has chosen to go now.
Only just turned 32, Vidic isn't ready for the knackers yard just yet. He has struggled with knee injuries during the last two seasons, but there remained hope he could get somewhere back to his best.
Vidic's departure is compounded by uncertainty over the futures of Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand.
They have formed three-quarters of United's back four for the last seven years. They have won Premier League titles and the Champions League.
When discussing United, you have to be wary of talking about the end of an era, given that only last summer Sir Alex Ferguson called time on more than 26 years as manager.
But just 12 months on, it feels like the club is on the verge of another significant change—which is the view of the Telegraph's Jim White.
Nemanja Vidic was a true titan at Manchester United, but his exit shows that the empire is crumbling, says Jim White http://t.co/wpTEFySB6y— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) February 7, 2014
After all, a United squad possibly without Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra and maybe Ryan Giggs will be almost unrecognisable from the one that has been so successful for nearly a decade.
Vidic's announcement will be a blow to David Moyes too, with his captain the youngest of that group. He will have perhaps hoped the Serbian would stay for another year to ease through the next generation.
Now, the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and possibly Michael Keane and Tom Thorpe will have to go it alone.
There is a chance that in there somewhere is the next Ferdinand-Vidic partnership. But there's no guarantee.
And Vidic's departure is likely to force Moyes into the transfer market. That's a new centre-half on the list next to central midfielder and left-back.
Vidic's decision to leave United in the summer signals the end of another era at Old Trafford. And Moyes' summer rebuild just got a bit bigger.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!