Ex-England and United defender Ferdinand retires

Former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand announced his retirement.

A picture taken on 16 March, 2013 shows Manchester United’s English defender Rio Ferdinand leaving the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Reading at Old Trafford in Manchester. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Former England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand announced his retirement from football on Saturday after being released by Queens Park Rangers.

The 36-year-old centre back earned 81 caps and won six Premier League titles, the Champions League, two League Cups and the Club World Cup during a 12-year spell with Manchester United where he made more than 400 appearances.

Ferdinand, whose wife Rebecca died from cancer this month, made 12 appearances for QPR last season after joining on a free transfer from United but was released following the west London club's relegation from the Premier League.

"After 18 years as a professional footballer, I now feel it's the right time for me to retire from the game that I love," Ferdinand told BT Sport.

"I'd also like to thank and pay tribute to my wife Rebecca and my family, including my mother and father, for their sacrifices, their encouragement and their advice throughout my career."

Ferdinand started out with West Ham United and also played for Leeds United before joining Manchester United for 29.1 million pounds in 2002 to become the most expensive player in English football at the time.

Ferdinand said he would look back on his England career "with immense pride" and he paid tribute to former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson who will "always be the greatest manager in British football history."

"As a 12-year-old boy, kicking around a football on the Friary Estate in Peckham, I never dreamt that I would play for my boyhood club West Ham, captain Leeds United, win the Champions League with Manchester United, or rejoin my first manager Harry Redknapp at Queens Park Rangers," he said.

"Winning trophies at Manchester United allowed me to achieve everything that I desired in football. From a young child to today, that was all I cared about.

"None of that would have been possible, without the genius of one man, Sir Alex Ferguson.

"Finally, I'd like to thank all the fans from all the clubs for without them professional football would not exist. I will miss each and every one of you on my Saturday afternoons."