The most successful – and, for many, the most eminent - central defensive partnership in United’s history is at an end, with one half bound for Milan and the other evaluating various potential destinations.
However far they may stray, a part of them will always remain in Old Trafford folklore. A combined 20 seasons, 755 appearances and 29 goals bore 10 major honours apiece amid the most successful chapter of United’s history.
The dynamic of their partnership was long cast: the renegade Serbian cop, smashing felons’ heads against desks until his dapper partner ambled nonchalantly into the fray to crack wise and soothe the situation. They weren’t quite so contrasting - tell Nemanja he couldn’t play or ask Rio if he was soft – but the pairing of ball-playing diffuser and ball-winning extinguisher worked perfectly.
They were thrown together by Vidic’s arrival midway through the 2005/06 season – Ferdinand’s fourth term at Old Trafford. Just as Jaap Stam had been the rock in a sea of defensive change before him, the England international had been flanked by a variety of partners in the early stages of his Reds career.
Even the arrival of Vidic took time to impact. Their on-field relationship began askew, with the newcomer partnering Wes Brown while Ferdinand was deployed alongside Wayne Rooney in midfield as Sir Alex Ferguson sought to replace the departed Roy Keane. Their first start as a central defensive pairing came in a 3-1 victory at Portsmouth on 11 February 2006, and was followed by a further eight outings before the end of the season.
Though a broken wrist delayed Vidic’s 2006/07 campaign and a dislocated shoulder hastened its end, the partnership had strengthened sufficiently to underpin an unexpected charge for the Premier League title. "I have played with numerous people and now it is the most settled it has been,” confided Ferdinand, midway through the campaign. “We're getting our reward for that. We've got a good understanding of each other's games and we've got the bit between our teeth to go on."