Vidic’s departure from Old Trafford, one season too early

When a little known Serbian center half joined the Manchester United ranks back during the Christmas of 2005, very few imagined him to turn out into one of the finest defenders to have played in that glorious red shirt of United. Vidic took little time to adjust to his new surroundings; having made the transition from Russian club Spartka Moskva many expected him to take more time to make his claim for a regular place in the heart of Manchester United’s defense. But the United skipper has since then gone onto become the mainstay of the club’s defense and one of the major driving forces behind the team’s prolonged spell of success in the later half of that decade.

Vidic joined the club at a time when Rio Ferdinand was playing the best football of his career, Gary Neville was about to retire, Patrice Evra had just arrived and Wesley Brown started most games in defense. Sir Alex Ferguson, who was still searching a replacement for the retired Laurent Blanc, was clearly not under any false impression of winning the league title with the likes of Wes Brown and John O’ Shea in the defense. With due respect to both, for the dedicated service they have rendered towards the club, neither of them were good enough to forge a formidable center back pairing with Ferdinand. Vidic turned out to be the answer to every question that the oppositions were posing to their defense as he teamed up with Ferdinand to form one of the best defensive pairing in European club football.

It has been eight long years and fifteen well deserved winners’ medals for Vidic ever since his arrival at the club and now he has finally announced his decision to leave Old Trafford in the summer. The club is right now going through their worst phase in decades, still reeling under the loss of Sir Alex Ferguson to retirement in the summer. The defense has looked shaky, the midfield hardly has been inspiring and the strikers have been in and out through injuries. Manchester United, in this current crisis situation, could have really done with Nemanja Vidic for another season at the club.

I would not dare argue against them who believe Vidic is past his prime; it would have pained me much more to see him depart a few seasons back when he was being targeted by most top clubs in the continent. But with the club’s defense looking completely disorganized and begging a complete overhaul this summer, Vidic’s presence would have made Moyes’ job easier.

Rio Ferdinand is clearly at that stage of his career where he would be more of an influence off the pitch than on it; Evra has been disappointing and his form has clearly been a concern to the club management which is evident at the way they have been hunting around for a left back. With both of them more than likely to leave the club in the summer, Vidic’s presence on the field and off it could have been the better way to prepare Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling for the role. The lack of experience has been noticeable at the club this season, both along the touchlines as well as among the players on the field. The retirement of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs playing the role of a coach more often than a player, Ferdinand finding himself on the bench and Carrick’s absence in the middle over stretched spells through injury; all these and more has culminated in the lacklustre performances by United this season.

Vidic, 32, is still not past it and his performances this season is a clear indicator of the same. His departure, coupled with the retirement of Ferdinand, would mean a mass exodus from Old Trafford and Moyes should be wary of it given the squad is in dire need of motivation and the United spirit which is fast dying. Considering all of the above, Moyes certainly must have tried to convince Vidic into staying on for another year but the Serb has his sights set elsewhere.

There has not been a clear majority verdict on Jonny Evans and if he can marshal the United defense in the years to come. The Irishman has developed into a fine defender; Ferdinand’s groin problems paved the way for the rookie defender to gain valuable first team exposure against top teams both in England and outside. He is similar to Vidic in some ways, he likes to dominate the opposition striker and is good in the air.

There has been a lot of expectations from Phil Jones after his arrival from Blackburn Rovers and he was, since then, considered to be the best choice to take over the defensive mantle once Ferdinand and Vidic’s time are up. But his growth as a defender has been left stunted by his occasional stints in the United midfield, forced upon by the lack of steel and strength in that department presently.

Jones has shown enough to convince that he has the potential to be one of the finest defenders in the world but he needs to play more regularly in the defense for that matter. To be fair to him, he has been equally good playing in the midfield having marked Cristiano Ronaldo to perfection last season. But for him to gradually prepare himself to fill in for Vidic, he needs to be sticking to playing in defense all the time. Even if that means, lesser first team football. Versatility has been his curse.

It now is up to the younger lot of Evans, Jones and Smalling to take care of the Manchester United rearguard. And based on their performances from now till the season end, Moyes would have to take a call whether he needs to spend big on a defender in the forthcoming summer.

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An avid Manchester United fan and a blogger by accident.


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