Club captain Nemanja Vidić says that stability fostered under Sir Alex Ferguson’s leadership is key to Manchester United’s success in the coming season. The 29-year-old central defender, who joined the club in January 2005, has no concerns about the influx of new players, which threatens to destabilise the team ahead of the new campaign.
Indeed, Vidić, who took on the captaincy full-time last summer, believes that the roots Ferguson has laid at Old Trafford will serve Phil Jones, David de Gea and Ashley Young well in the coming months. With three players also having returned from loan, and thrust into the first team squad, summer 2011 has been one of far more change than is customary under Ferguson’s leadership.
The reconstruction process has been ongoing for some time of course but it is more reminiscent of the relentless change seen at rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in recent years. Change, with Ferguson in charge says Vidić, is no threat to United’s dominance.
“What he brings to the club is stability,” Vidić told CNN World Sport.
“He builds a road which all players follow – even now when we have three, four new players. We have a system, we are playing for so many years and when they arrive to the club they know who is the manager, and as players what is expected of them.
“At other clubs you have the problems in terms of the change of the coaches, they are changing new players and coaches. Sometimes they really have the problem, to build the team.”
While City has retained Roberto Mancini a sustained Premier League title challenge is required if the Italian is to keep his job into a third season. City’s decision to fire Mark Hughes, for example, demonstrates the ruthless nature of both modern football and the Abu Dhabi regime at Eastlands.
Meanwhile, over at Chelsea Roman Abramovich is on his seventh manager, having appointed Portuguese coach André Villas-Boas this summer. The Russian oligarch’s desire for victory in Europe has become all-consuming and failure to deliver instant success will inevitably lead to 33-year-old Villas-Boas’ departure next summer. It is this lack of stability that United has not faced in 25 years.
Even at the Emirates the pressure is on Arsène Wenger to deliver a first trophy in six years despite the Frenchman’s longevity at Arsenal. Failure and the price on Wenger’s departure will shorten markedly.
If that means United is under less pressure than domestic rivals this season that may well be so but captain Vidić understands the very unique demands Old Trafford now exerts. More than two decades of success under Ferguson has bred not only a winning mentality but, sometimes, a sense on entitlement.
“If you want to play for Man United you have to win everything,” adds Vidić.
“You have to be successful, otherwise, new players come and you have to fight for your place. I still have hunger to play, hunger to win the trophies.
“As long as I think like that, I will be good, but I would really like to win the FA Cup as well. I haven’t won the FA Cup yet, this is the trophy I really want to win.
“I’m just hoping we are going to reach our form from the beginning of the season, because we have a tough schedule. We have really tough games in the first few weeks, if you perform the best, we can, I believe, we can win the title again.”
Vidić’s personal position is safe of course; a far cry from just over a year ago when persistent thigh injury and a willingness to leave for greener pastures threatened the Serbian’s future at Old Trafford. The defender’s new contract, sustained fitness and a captain’s responsibility brought the very best out of the former Spartak Moscow defender last season. Yet, with Chris Smalling and Jones impressing despite the inexperience on offer Vidić knows that little bar the Serbian’s very best is required if he is to retain his position in Ferguson’s side.
In the longer term Ferguson will, of course, retire. The smart money has for some time been on summer 2012, although the Scot shows absolutely no sign of calling it a day. Indeed, Ferguson has repeatedly said that health concerns alone will dictate his role as United’s chief.
With that change will come the single most important appointment at the club since Sir Matt Busby’s retirement in 1971. On that occasion United’s executive management failed, bringing instability, change and decades of hurt to Old Trafford. Ferguson’s introduction in 1986 and the board’s support through the difficult 1989-90 season laid the foundation for the multi-billion pound institution that United has become.
Yet, in Arsenal’s recent troubles, Liveprool’s fall from grace and the constant change at Stamford Bridge lies an important lesson. It is one that captain Vidić understands well.