Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke has described departing centre-back Rio Ferdinand as “colossal”.
Ferdinand will not be given an extension to his contract which expires this summer and is now looking for a new club.
The 35-year-old has lost his place in the United side over the last couple of seasons due to a series of injuries and because of the emergence of Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.
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.”
Yorke, who played for four seasons at Old Trafford from 1998 to 2002, believes the departure of Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic represents the end of an era for the Reds.
“The word colossal comes into play as that’s the type of player that Ferdinand was,” Yorke said.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise but it’s an end of an era for himself and Nemanja Vidic – it’s unbelievable the amount of success they’ve had.
“Rio can leave that football club with his head held incredibly high in terms of what he has achieved.”
The decision to let Ferdinand go ignores the advice of interim manager Ryan Giggs, who insisted earlier this month the defender could still make a useful contribution and should be offered a new deal.
Former Reds defender Gary Neville appeared to question the move when he wrote on Twitter: “So it looks like Rio and Vida allowed to leave at once! A conveyor belt has become a cliff!”
Ferdinand moved to Old Trafford from Leeds in July 2002 for a then British record transfer fee of £29.1m, which 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.
Ferdinand added: “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.”
He made 454 appearances for Manchester United and earned 81 caps for England before announcing his international retirement in May last year.
RIO’S TOP FIVE RED LETTER DAYS
Everton 1 Man Utd 2, May 2003
Gets his hands on a Premier League title medal for the first time as United come from behind to win at Goodison Park.
Man Utd 1 Liverpool 0, January 2006
The goal for which Ferdinand is most remembered. A last-minute header from Giggs’ free-kick to snatch victory against the fiercest rivals.
Man Utd 1 Barcelona 0, April 2008
On this Old Trafford night, with Nemanja Vidic missing, Ferdinand had to be at his best to repel Messi and Co as Barcelona hunted the goal to swing a pulsating semi-final in their favour.
Man Utd 1 Chelsea 1 (Man Utd win on penalties), May 2008
Ferdinand dances in the rain at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as he wins the Champions League.
Man Utd 2 Swansea 1, May 2013
Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game at Old Trafford looks set to end in a disappointing draw. Ferdinand has other ideas as he crashes home a classic volley – his first goal for five years – to ensure a fitting end.