United would welcome Ferdinand back
Manchester United want Rio Ferdinand to return to Old Trafford in an ambassadorial role in the future, a source close to club has told ESPN FC.
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The centre-back announced on Monday that he will leave United when his contract expires this summer.
He said in a statement: "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."
But United have told the 35-year-old that they are grateful for his service over the past 12 years and view him as a club legend, and they hope he will be involved in years to come.
Six former United greats are currently official ambassadors for the club -- Sir Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Bryan Robson, Gary Neville, Andy Cole and Peter Schmeichel -- and, while it is not confirmed that Ferdinand would be granted the same status, the Old Trafford hierarchy are keen for him to play a part in some capacity when his playing days are over.
Ferdinand is unlikely to retire now and suggested in a statement about his departure that he will look to play on elsewhere.
He was United's record signing when he joined from Leeds in 2002 and made 455 appearances for the club, winning six Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008.
The timing of his departure denied him a proper farewell, unlike his long-time centre-back partner Nemanja Vidic, but United want to recognise his achievements.
He added: "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."