LONDON, February 7- Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic is to leave the English Premier League champions at the end of the season, in a move the Serbia defender hopes will end speculation about his future.
“I have decided that I will move on at the end of this season,” he said in a statement on the club’s official website. “It’s the last year of my contract and I have had eight wonderful years here.”
British press reports suggested the 32-year-old had not been offered an extension to his current Old Trafford contract and Vidic, who insisted he did not want to play for another club in England.
“I want to challenge myself again and try to make the best of myself in the coming years,” Vidic explained. “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 added: “I’ve got a few options to move on and I will choose the right one for me and for my family.”
Under the Bosman regulations, Vidic can now talk to clubs outside of England amid speculation he could be on his way to join Italian giants Inter Milan.
Vidic arrived at Old Trafford in 2005 in a £7 million ($11.4m, 8.4m euros) move from Russia’s Spartak Moscow.
He became a key figure in nearly all of United’s subsequent trophy triumphs and last term captained United to an historic 20th English title — his fifth and the club’s last under Alex Ferguson before the celebrated Scottish manager retired.
However, he made only 19 league appearances last season after he was laid low by a severe knee injury first suffered in a shock Champions League defeat by Swiss side Basel in 2011 that led to two major operations.
In the view of some pundits, Vidic has never been the same player since nor has his once dominant central defensive partnership with England’s Rio Ferdinand, who could also be leaving Old Trafford at the end of the season, been as commanding.
Certainly United, who will have Vidic available to face relegation-threatened Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday after he completed a three-match ban following his red card in the Premier League defeat by Chelsea last month, have struggled under new manager David Moyes.
They have been knocked out of both domestic cups and are currently a huge 15 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal and seven adrift of a place in next season’s Champions League.
However, they do have a winnable last 16 clash in this term’s edition of European club football’s elite competition against Greek outsiders Olympiakos.
Vidic said it was European football that had provided him with the highlight of his time at United after he returned to Moscow to play in their penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final.
“My time at this great club will always rank as the best years of my career,” he insisted.
“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 also played for United in their two Champions League final defeats by Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
He said his intention now was to ensure a strong finish to the season for the Red Devils.
“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,” he said.
“I hope this stops any further speculation about my future.”