REUTERS - Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic will leave the Premier League club at the end of the season, flagging a move abroad and signalling a possible break-up of Alex Ferguson’s last great team at Old Trafford.
The 32-year-old Serbian defender, one of a clutch of seasoned players on the last year of their contracts at United, has struggled for regular game-time under new manager David Moyes, and been linked with Serie A giants Inter Milan.
“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,” Vidic said in a statement on the club’s website (www.manutd.com) on Friday, referring to the team’s Champions League win over Chelsea in 2008.
“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.”
Captain since the start of the 2010-11 season, the former Red Star Belgrade and Spartak Moscow defender joined United in 2006 and with Rio Ferdinand, formed one of the strongest central defensive pairings in the club’s history.
A formidable tackler and a towering presence in the air, Vidic came back from a serious knee injury to help outgoing manager Ferguson claim a 20th Premier League title in 2012-13, and honoured the Scot by handing him the silverware after his final victory against Swansea City at Old Trafford.
Vidic has battled injury niggles and missed games in all competitions this season, with Moyes keen to rejuvenate the side’s back four with younger players.
Vidic’s announcement gives the under-pressure manager time to scour for a replacement and himself time to secure a role at another club, but the Serbian ruled out a move to a rival Premier League club.
“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,” he said.
”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 is available to return against Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday after serving a three-match suspension following his sending off against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month.
Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury