After being released by Inter Milan after various injury problems, Nemanja Vidic has decided to call time on a glittering career, aged 34.
Vidic will go down as one of the greatest defenders to ever grace the Premier League and he will be fondly remembered most of all at Manchester United where he won 15 trophies, including five Premier League titles as well as a famous Champions League triumph in Moscow.
Incredibly, the Serb averaged a trophy every 20 games for Manchester United as he formed a formidable center-back partnership with Rio Ferdinand, which was the foundation for another successful Alex Ferguson era.
A look at his Premier League statistics alone will show what an immense player Vidic was:
- 211 matches
- 149 wins
- 95 clean sheets
- 2 player of the season awards
- 5 titles
The United great has received well deserved praise for his heroic performances over the years, with Ferguson and Gary Neville perhaps putting it best.
“How many centre-halves can you name who actually like defending? Vidic liked it. He loved the challenge of sticking his head in there. You could tell that the thrill of contesting those 50-50 balls animated him,” Ferguson is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“Vidic has to be in the team. That’s non-negotiable. How he didn’t win Player of the Year in 2010/11 is beyond me. He was easily the most consistent, influential player in the league,” Gary Neville said when naming his best Manchester United XI.
The little known Vidic at the time signed for Manchester United from Spartak Moscow on the 5th of January 2006 for just £7 million – little did people know at the time what a bargain Ferguson had secured.
In fact, it was the same window when Patrice Evra was brought in from Monaco, who would also become a major success with Vidic in United’s back four. Perhaps it was only fitting they both left the club in the same transfer window too, with Vidic joining Inter Milan and Evra signing for Juventus where he is still a big player. Both players will always be fondly remembered at Old Trafford.
Vidic initially struggled to make the step up at United, and he was far from an overnight success.
Indeed in his first few training sessions for the club he was questioned by his teammates. These question marks would have clearly got inside Vidic’s head as he struggled for his first few months, however he would soon silence the doubters and became an unbelievable force in United’s back four.
Vidic worked on his strength in the gym and established himself in the team during the 2006-07 season where he began to form that formidable partnership with Rio Ferdinand, which was a major component in the team that brought unprecedented success to Manchester United.
Vidic’s physical and mental commitment was unrivaled, he put his head in places where other players were afraid to put their feet.
Vidic was very much an aggressive, no-nonsense type of defender who was highly regarded for his extraordinary bravery on the pitch which has earned him cult status among the United faithful and is often compared to another United great in Steve Bruce who displayed similar qualities.
His partnership with Ferdinand was perfect as their different styles complimented each other from Vidic’s aggressive attacking the first ball to Ferdinand’s reading of the game enabling him to sweep up the second balls and of course Ferdinand’s ability on the ball. Vidic was comfortable in possession too, something which tends to get swept under the rug.
It is a trait all defenders need to have at top clubs in the modern game.
Vidic enjoyed many battles with strikers over the years. He became a defender that was feared, who could dominate his opponent physically and crunch into tackles.
He had some great battles with Didier Drogba and the outcome of that usually went a long way towards deciding the outcome for Manchester United-Chelsea games. One player who tended to get the better of Vidic was Fernando Torres whose pace traditionally caused Vidic problems several times during United-Liverpool clashes.
In fact, Liverpool were Vidic’s bogey opponents in many ways as he was sent off against them four times.
Vidic can be proud of a very successful career and deserves to enjoy his retirement. Manchester United is a very different place these days as the club struggle badly in the post Ferguson era but United fans will always be in debt to Vidic who was a big part in better times.
Perhaps United need another Vidic, maybe Smalling can become that leader but United need more of those characters like Vidic to pull them out of stormy waters.
Chris Kelleher, Pundit Arena