Rio Ferdinand was 'taken aback' by Manchester United axe

Rio Ferdinand has opened up about his departure from Manchester United ahead of his return to Old Trafford with Queens Park Rangers.

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Ferdinand joined QPR in July after 12 trophy-laden years with United and, as he prepares to face his old side for the first time in a Premier League encounter on Sunday, he revealed how United chief executive Ed Woodward told him his Red Devils career was over.

Woodward delivered the news to the 35-year-old centre-back after United's final game of the 2013-14 Premier League season against Southampton, and Ferdinand has spoken of his shock over the manner in which he was told his services were no longer required

"I was taken aback," Ferdinand recalled in an interview with The Sun. "I was sitting there in a blur. It was the last game of the season and I was still in match mode. It was almost in one ear and out the other, and after a little while it hit me what he was saying.

"The other boys hadn't heard, so I leaned over and told Vida [Nemanja Vidic]: 'That's my last game for United. He just told me. That's it.'"

Ferdinand admits it was not the way he wanted to bring his United career to an end and the club's handling of the matter left him saddened.

He added: "The club got in touch later and they would accept that it could have been done better. The most emotional moment was when I went back to the training ground at Carrington to clean out my locker. I had to stop myself from getting a bit worked up about it.

"Stuff had been in that locker for 10 years and I'm seeing pictures and moments during that time coming out of that locker -- deodorants, even an old phone. Then seeing all the staff, the people who played their part in helping me along the way. You are saying 'bye' to people that are almost part of your family."

Louis van Gaal was not in charge when the club decided against renewing Ferdinand's contract, but had he been at the helm, he would have gone down the same route.

When asked whether United should have kept Ferdinand, Van Gaal said: "No. There is a time to stay and a time to go and Rio decided to go. He was a great player, maybe he is still a great player, but there is always a time for a player to go from a club."