An injury sustained by the former England captain against Swansea could speed up his Old Trafford exit.
Rio Ferdinand has enjoyed one of the finest careers in modern British football, winning six Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups, as well as appearing in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year on six separate occasions.
But an injury sustained in the 2-1 FA Cup defeat to Swansea yesterday, which the Mirror believe will keep him out for several weeks, could spell the end for the former West Ham man.
At 35, Ferdinand has already been reduced to the role of squad player this season, only featuring once in the Premier League since September.
His appearance against Swansea, where he captained United, was his first since a less-than-impressive showing against Shakhtar Donetsk in December which prompted former team-mate Roy Keane to label his performance ‘ridiculous’.
In Sunday’s cup clash Ferdinand’s passing was noticeably poor, particularly given that he became renowned as one of the finest ball-playing centre-backs in Europe.
His injury spelled disaster for United, as his replacement Fabio da Silva was sent off within minutes of entering the fray before the Red Devils conceded a late Wilfried Bony header and crashed out of the cup.
David Moyes has clearly preferred younger options Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling in recent weeks, with club captain Nemanja Vidic also making more appearances than Ferdinand.
Phil Jones, currently injured, also appears to have overtaken Ferdinand in the central defensive pecking order.
With Ferdinand out of contract at the end of this season, it appears unlikely he will be offered another deal by the club and the curtain could fall on his time at Old Trafford.
If so, what is next for the man who once cost £30million when Sir Alex Ferguson signed him from Leeds United?
Ferdinand has already agreed to be a pundit for the BBC at Brazil 2014 and has several off-field interests such as his #5 magazine and clothing brand.
He also expressed in the summer that he is considering moving into management.
So is there any prospect of Ferdinand playing on at another club?
He has been frequently linked with Major League Soccer and some Premier League clubs such as his former team West Ham would surely appreciate his guile and experience in their squad.
But Ferdinand has been exposed on several occasions this season, noticeably by Morgan Amalfitano and Saido Berahino when West Bromwich Albion claimed victory at Old Trafford, and the loss of his once-impressive pace could see him decide it is best to bow out while still at a top club.
He will have plenty of regrets from his career - missing the FA Cup final triumph in 2004 through his long suspension for missing a drugs test would be chief among them, as he never managed to win the trophy.
Similarly, never featuring at a European Championship and missing the 2010 World Cup, where he would have been captain, through injury must rankle.
But Ferdinand will no doubt go down as one of the greatest English players. His captaincy and formidable partnership with Vidic were crucial to United’s Champions League and Premier League double in 2008 and he showed his class right up to Ferguson’s final league victory last season, hitting the last winner of his former manager’s career against Swansea at Old Trafford.
Whatever he does next, he will surely be missed by United fans.
images: © gordonflood.com
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