Rio talks to start 'shortly'

Rio Ferdinand's agent has told Sky Sports News that contract talks are planned with Manchester United 'shortly'.

The centre-half's current deal is due to expire in 2009 and the Premier League champions are keen to discuss an extension.

According to reports, the England international's representative Pini Zahavi wanted to wait until the summer before opening negotiations with United.

But Zahavi has told Sky Sports News that there is a 'plan to shortly begin talks between Rio Ferdinand and Manchester United'.

When the Red Devils do open discussions, the club will be hoping to avoid the protracted negotiations which characterised Ferdinand's last contract.

Ferdinand signed his current four-year deal in 2005, but only after several months of talks which resulted in him being booed by fans in a pre-season friendly.

The situation was eventually resolved and the 29-year-old has continued to be a mainstay of a United rearguard which has conceded just 15 league goals this season.

Since joining the club in a then-British transfer record from Leeds United in 2002, Ferdinand has made over 250 appearances, scoring seven goals.

And, having spent almost 30million on the player, United will be determined to avoid losing the former West Ham United youngster for nothing.