Veteran Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was unceremoniously told he would not be offered a new deal by the club, with Ed Woodward informing the player in the dressing room after the draw at Southampton, according to widespread reports.
Ferdinand has been forced out as United look to appoint their new manager, as reported by Chris Wheeler of the Mail Online.
Wheeler reported that several people expressed shock as the former England captain was directly informed in the dressing room by the United executive that his services were no longer needed at Old Trafford.
The termination of the relationship ends Ferdinand's 12-year association with last year's champions. United officially confirmed Ferdinand's departure via their official Twitter account:
Wheeler confirmed Ferdinand's disappointment, quoting the defender, who posted on his website: "Circumstances didn’t allow for me to say goodbye the way I would have liked."
However, The Mirror's Manchester football columnist David McDonnell claimed United refute the player was told in the dressing room of his departure, instead saying the club may wish to bring Ferdinand back in a non-playing capacity in the future.
United have categorically denied reports that the news was broken to Ferdinand in the Southampton dressing room after Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Southampton. The club are keen to retain links with Ferdinand and have not ruled out offering him a role as a club ambassador in the future.
And former United captain Gary Neville expressed his surprise at Ferdinand's departure from Old Trafford.
Ferdinand has featured sparsely for the Red Devils this season. He has only made 12 starts in the Premier League, but he was consistently used in the Champions League by David Moyes, appearing seven times during a good run in Europe, per WhoScored.com.
The player, who lifted the Champions League trophy for United in 2008, has slipped down the pecking order since Sir Alex Ferguson's departure as manager, despite having a wonderful season last year.
United claimed their 20th league championship in 2012-13, as Ferdinand featured in 28 Premier League matches, per Squawka. This was more than any other centre-back at the club.
Ferdinand leaves a huge hole to fill for United. He has proved his value and worth during his years at Old Trafford, fully justifying the reason why Ferguson made him the costliest defender in world football after his capture from Leeds United, in 2002.
But the time to release Ferdinand is right. He may still have a year or two left in his legs but United must think long-term and invest heavily in a replacement.
Both Ferdinand and his partner Nemanja Vidic have seen their best days and their careers are now more suited to playing at different clubs.
If Woodward did inform Ferdinand of the end of his employment in a dressing room, this once again proves his perceived ineptitude, after replacing the statesman-like figure of David Gill, last season.
It is a disrespectful way to treat a club legend but points toward United's ruthless approach at regaining their reputation and status as England's prime football team.
Woodward has had a torrid 12 months at the United helm and must now find a way of reconstructing the club's fortunes, with a new coach in charge of team affairs.