Leeds United have confirmed that manager David O’Leary was sacked and did not resign as was reported earlier today.

The club released a statementthis morning claiming O’Leary’s departure was “by mutual consent”, but a spokesman admitted later: “I can confirm that he was sacked.”

The spokesman went on to say that O’Leary’s departure was precipitated by the club’s poor showing last season.

‘The board were disappointed with the playing performance last season,’ he added in reference to Leeds’ failure to qualify for the Champions League.

The proposed sale of Rio Ferdinand to Manchester United is understood to have been the catalyst for O’Leary’s departure with the manager believed to be furious that the club were preparing to offload the player without prior consultation.

The board is desperate to reduce the club’s debts but O’Leary was understood to be unhappy that their most-prized asset was being offered to one of Leeds’ closest domestic rivals.

On hearing the news of O’Leary’s departure, Ferdinand admitted he was stunned.

“It’s a massive blow and I’m disappointed to see this happen,” he said.

“He has been with the club through good and bad. He paid a lot of money to sign me and he’s been brilliant for me, first-class.”