Sunday's Premier League finale at St. Mary's Stadium may have marked the end of an era for Manchester United, as veteran defender Rio Ferdinand is reportedly set to depart from Old Trafford this summer following 12 seasons with the Red Devils.
MailOnline Sport was the first to report the news:
EXCLUSIVE: Rio Ferdinand will leave Manchester United this summer after being informed he will not be offered a new contract #mufc— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) May 12, 2014
Ferdinand and the club confirmed the news in a release on the club website:
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.
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.
The 35-year-old centre-back only netted eight goals during his time at United, but made more than 450 appearances for the club in all competitions, including 300-plus Premier League matches, as noted by Opta Sports on Twitter:
312 - Rio Ferdinand played 312 PL games for @ManUtd; only 4 Utd players (Giggs, Scholes, G Neville & Keane) have more apps in PL. Stalwart.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 12, 2014
This past season, Ferdinand saw his role with the Red Devils diminish as the squad struggled immensely under first-year manager David Moyes, who was fired last month. Ferdinand appeared in only 14 of United's 38 league matches in 2013-14, starting a dozen of those matches.
Even though he's past his prime, Ferdinand is still a capable defender who takes advantage of his experience and passing prowess.
However, there's no question the former Three Lions star has lost a step from an athleticism standpoint.
According to the Daily Mail's Chris Wheeler, Ferdinand "has offers on the table from America's Major League Soccer, China and the Middle East, and will weigh up his options over the coming weeks."
It's clearly too early to tell what Ferdinand's next move will be, but in addition to the aforementioned offers, retirement is certainly another possibility considering he retired from international competition in May 2013, per The Telegraph's Nick Pearce:
At the age of 34, I feel it is right for me to stand aside and let the younger players come through, which allows me to concentrate on my club career... I regard it as a great honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from U17s upwards.
Regardless of what Ferdinand does next or where he lands, his departure from United serves as yet another signal that times have changed at Old Trafford.
After going from Premier League champions to seventh place in the span of one year, the pressure is on United chief executive Ed Woodward and his colleagues to retool on the fly and turn the Red Devils into contenders this summer.
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