Figures from across English football paid tribute to Rebecca Ellison, who died on Friday night from breast cancer, with fans applauding during matches and players expressing sympathy to Ferdinand.
“My soulmate slipped away last night,” the 36-year-old Queens Park Rangers player said in a statement.
“Rebecca, my wonderful wife, passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
“She was a fantastic, loving mother to our three beautiful children. She will be missed as a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and granddaughter. She will live on in our memory, as a guide and inspiration.”
He added: “Our grief, as a family, is total. We would appreciate being allowed to mourn privately.”
The couple married in 2009, just after Ferdinand had won a third successive Premier League title with United. Their children are aged between four and nine.
QPR and Liverpool players wore black armbands during their Premier League game at Anfield on Saturday.
QPR midfielder Leroy Fer lifted his shirt to reveal a written tribute to Ellison after scoring during the game, which saw Liverpool win 2-1.
Speaking after the match, QPR manager Chris Ramsey said: “It is an extremely difficult time for Rio and his family. It puts all this in its place.”
“Just heard the terrible news,” said Rangers captain Joey Barton on Twitter. “RIP Rebecca.”
United were also quick to express condolences.
“Manchester United would like to express its deepest condolences to Rio Ferdinand after the news that his wife, Rebecca, has sadly passed away,” the club said in a statement.
United’s supporters chanted “Rio! Rio! Rio!” during their side’s home game with West Bromwich Albion and applauded throughout the fifth minute, in a nod to Ferdinand’s former squad number at Old Trafford.
Players from both teams also donned black armbands.
Ferdinand spent 12 trophy-laden years at United between 2002 and 2014 before joining QPR.
He won 81 caps for England between 1997 and 2011. The Football Association offered its “deepest condolences”.
Many stars from English football offered condolences, including United players Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao.
“Devastated to hear about Rebecca,” Rooney tweeted. “My prayers are with Rio and his family at this sad time.”