Tag Nemanja Vidic

Tag Nemanja Vidic

Tentative Vidić poses defensive selection dilemma

Liz Worsley January 4, 2013 Tags: Opinion 10 comments

As the second half of the season gets underway, the once fearless Nemanja Vidić is now tentative about his return to full time action for the Reds. The Serbian defender has endured a frustrating time since originally injuring his right knee against FC Basel in December 2011 in what has proven to an an incredibly unlucky injury for player and club.

Back then the Serbian was caught in a tangle with Basel striker Marco Streller, and tore not only his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but also the medial and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL) too. To underline the defender’s poor luck, it is extremely rare for a player to tear the lateral and medial ligaments together due to the forces required to damage both structures at the same time.

Vidić then required further surgery early this season to repair damage to the meniscus after experiencing problems in training, thus completing ‘the unhappy triad’ of tears to the ACL, MCL and medial meniscus, three structures in the knee that are commonly damaged in professional athletes.

The defender’s surgery in September 2012 came shortly after the player had claimed that his knee was “in perfect condition” and that the partnership with Rio Ferdinand could once again be “the best in the Premier League”. Surgery proved to be huge blow to United, with manager Sir Alex Ferguson having become too familiar with defensive injury crises over the last four seasons.

Vidić returned on 15 December when the player made a late entry as a substitute against Sunderland, but is yet to pair up again with Ferdinand. The duo has created a formidable partnership over recent years, but injuries and age beg the question whether they will be able to regularly play together again in future?

After all, Vidić will now be wary of returning too early, with the consequences severe. United’s coaches already seem to be adapting the player’s first team involvement. The Serbian also says that he is now consulting with doctors before each game after suffering an adverse reaction following United’s match with Swansea City. In fact the player isn’t nearly as confident as he once was about his knee.

“The doctor is managing the games [I play],” said the Serbian. “Over the first two or three months I have to really look at the games I can play because sometimes I might have a reaction. This is a process I have to go through. I am glad I have managed to play after three months. It is nice to be on the pitch and playing games.”

Having been troubled for over a year, injury is now bound to have an impact not just physically, but psychologically on the tough 31-year-old defender, particularly after apparently being rushed back too soon last Autumn. Vidić will know that the risk of re-injury is a lot higher in players who have previously torn knee ligaments.

Furthermore, having been so unlucky in damaging the LCL, Vidić will be wary of his own personal fragility. It is debatable whether the player will ever regain the form of old.

To that point, a recent JUMP-ACL study looked at risk factors for ACL tears and provided some interesting findings, including the fact that certain body positions in relation to the ground, and postures such as hip flexion, are strongly associated with this damage.

This research is particularly interesting when you consider the stances adopted by players when engaged in defending – typically bent forward with knees and hips flexed to lower the centre of gravity in preparation to spring forward and intercept.

Vidić may also be wary of bending his damaged knee too far for fear of tearing the repaired meniscus again, and of sharp cutting maneuvers that can result in twisting the joint and threatening re-injury to the collateral ligaments.

The waterlogged pitch at Old Trafford against West Bromwich Albion on 29 December, which underwent a pitch inspection by officials, will no doubt have been a red flag for a player fearful of re-injuring old wounds. And over the Christmas period Sir Alex Ferguson rotated Vidić and Ferdinand by partnering one or the other with Jonny Evans.

During its peak, the reliable Vidić-Ferdinand partnership allowed one central defender to roam forward, knowing that the other would hold back and provide cover if an attack broke down.

However, with question marks hanging over the pace and agility of the ageing duo, it may now be sensible to play only one of them, along with Evans. The Reds are in a fortunate position to have all defenders back in contention while Vidić makes his gradual return to action.

But after a tumultuous first half of the season – defensively at least – Ferguson may also want consistency in his back four, posing interesting selection question in defence following two clean sheets on the run and with Real Madrid not too far off on the horizon.

Crocked Vidić leaves Reds’ squad exposed

Ed September 25, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 20 comments

It could hardly be a more devastating blow; the news that captain Nemanja Vidić will miss two months of the season after undergoing a second operation on his damaged right knee. Vidić missed five months of the previous campaign having suffered a double tear to medial and cruciate ligaments in Manchester United’s match against FC Basel in Switzerland last December.

It is likely to be late December before the giant Serbian defender is fully match-fit once again, with the 30-year-old having looked decidedly rusty in the opening six matches of the campaign. Vidić will miss at least seven Premier League games with the meniscus tear and three Champions League matches.

Vidić’s injury comes at the worst possible time, with Rio Ferdinand visibly hobbling through last Sunday’s victory over Liverpool at Anfield. Meanwhile, Jonny Evans has only recently returned from an ankle operation – an injury that the Irishman admitted earlier this month is still causing pain and stiffness. Adding to a lengthening injury list, Chris Smalling will not return until October after tearing a thigh muscle, while Phil Jones is suffering both with a persistent back problem and a strained right calf.

“Nemanja Vidic has had a meniscus operation on his right knee and will be out for around eight weeks,” read a drab club statement on Tuesday.

“Sir Alex, as a precautionary measure, rested Vidic at the weekend, after he complained of tightness in his knee, however, further medical investigation revealed the underlying problem. The central defender was operated on this week and will be sidelined for about eight weeks.”

Vidić’s operation leaves Sir Alex Ferguson with just two senior central defenders in Ferdinand and Evans: the former struggling through Sunday’s game and Evans short of sharpness. Indeed, it is likely that the Irishman will play against Newcastle United on Wednesday as Ferguson seeks to bring the 24-year-old up to speed. Evans will now play a crucial role in the run up to Christmas – just as the Belfast-born player did following Vidić’s injury at Basel last season.

Yet, whatever the numbers at Ferguson’s disposal, a third defensive injury crisis in as many seasons begs plenty of questions. Not least whether the club’s policy of spending big on attacking players this summer – Shinji Kagawa, Robin van Persie, Nick Powell, Ángelo Henríquez – was the right one, especially with so many of Ferguson’s defenders having a poor injury record in recent times.

While Ferguson brought Alexander Büttner to the club in support of, or competition for, Patrice Evra, Rafael da Silva is the only other United defender to have not suffered injury this season. That in itself is a bonus, with the Brazilian youngster having developed a well-earned reputation for lengthy spells on the sideline.

Then there is he vexed question of squad planning. One injury crisis is unfortunate and two suspicious; three in as many seasons begins to look like the manager has failed to learn from history. Many have made the same observation about United’s central midfield.

Ferguson’s problems will exacerbate further if Michael Carrick is forced into central defence once again. The 30-year-old struggled during United’s defeat to Everton on the opening day, and then once again for United’s narrow win over Fulham at Old Trafford.

After all, while Carrick and partner Ryan Giggs were thoroughly dominated by Liverpool’s midfield last Sunday, it is not as if Ferguson has a bounty of riches in the engine room from which to extricate Carrick if necessary.

Yet, Vidić’s loss may become a youngsters gain, with Scott Wooten and Michael Keane also now in contention both for the Capital One Cup tie against the Geordies on Wednesday, and United’s fixture with Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford next weekend. Wooten spent much of last season on loan at Peterborough United, while Keane made his competitive début for the club in last season’s Carling Cup.

“I’ve been really impressed with young Michael Keane,” said Evans of the 19-year-old who won the Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year last season.

“I think his brother has been getting more of the headlines over the last couple of years. Will’s also a fantastic player but obviously he’s got an injury at the minute. I’ve been really impressed with Michael when he’s stepped up into training with us and I can see him getting a bit of a run-out if things go well.”

On a more serious note, however, United’s ability to challenge on all fronts this season will surely be hampered by defensive shortages. The open midfield deployed this season, together with frequent changes in the Reds’ back-four, have led to six goals being shipped already, with far greater challenges ahead.

Unfortunately for Ferguson, while United’s schedule is packed during Vidić’s absence, the Reds also face some testing opponents. In addition to Spurs next weekend, United face Chelsea, Arsenal, and visit Newcastle before November is out. The Derby with Manchester City at Eastlands is scheduled for 8 December.

Whether Vidić ever returns to the form that made him one of Europe’s finest defenders is now surely open to question. Rustiness in the opening matches of the campaign was understandable. So too a permanent dip in performance levels or, more specifically, pace cannot be unrealistic.

Add Ferdinand’s age into the mix and Ferguson may be forced to phase out two of his stalwarts this season; providing the pair’s replacements can keep themselves fit that is. Smalling’s pace and power, Evans progression, and the multi-talented Jones offer much promised. None of it can be fulfilled from the physio’s bench.

Vidić retirement perfect for player and United

Ed October 12, 2011 Tags: , Opinion No comments

Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidić may have suffered disappointment this week, with his Serbian team knocked out of the European Championships by Slovenia on Tuesday night, but the loss could be the player’s gain after the 29-year-old hinted at retirement from the international game. Just as Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-Sung quit international football well before their club careers concluded – and Paul Scholes’ famously left England behind aged just 29 – Vidić could extend his Old Trafford tenure by formally ending his time with Serbia.

Serbia’s 1-0 defeat in Maribor ensured that Estonia finished second behind Italy in Group C to reach the Euro 2012 play-offs. Dare Vršič scored the only goal late in the opening period of a game that Serbia had to win. Vidić’s pain in defeat was exacerbated when the United defender missed a second-half penalty that could have swung the game in Serbia’s favour.

“I took responsibility and I am aware of the consequences of a poorly executed penalty,” Vidic told local paper Blic.

“It was agreed that I take the kick. I wanted to take responsibility. I will bear the consequences of course. If I had scored the game would flowed on an entirely different course.

“I’m sorry that I will never play at the European Championships because the next qualification [tournament]  will be in years. It’s time for a change of generations and for some older players to say goodbye to the Serbian jersey.”

Vidić has appeared 56 times for the White Eagles since making his début in October 2002. The former Spartak Moscow player formed a part of  the “Famous Four” defence, which conceded just one goal during ten 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification matches. But along with Mladen Krstajić, Ivica Dragutinović and Goran Gavrančić, it was a team that failed to sparkle in Germany, losing all three group matches.

Indeed, Vidić’s pride at representing his country, where nationhood is still in its relative infancy, has often ended in disappointment. Qualification for the 2010 World Cup in also ended in group stage failure, while the Eagles failed to reach either the 2004 or 2008 Euro tournaments. The latest disappointment, it seems, is simply too much for a player who, fitness permitting, still has years at the very top of European football.

Disappointment may be palpable in Belgrade but confirmation of Vidić’s Serbian retirement will, without doubt, be music to Sir Alex Ferguson’s ears, who has never enjoyed the burden placed on his players by the international game. While there is no evidence of the Scot’s intervention in the aforementioned retirements, the decisions made by Scholes, Giggs and Park have helped each player and the club immeasurably.

Meanwhile, Giggs famously played just 64 international games in 16 years as an international, with the winger repeatedly missing friendly matches early in his career. Retirement from the Welsh team more than four years ago has ensured Giggs is still turning out for the Reds well into his late 30s.

Vidić will benefit too, at an age when injuries may become an increasing concern for a player dependent on his physicality. After all, the defender turns 30 in late-October and is only now returning from the latest in a growing number of injuries over the past three seasons. The latest injury – to the player’s calf – has restricted the defender to just one Premier League start this season. Repeated thigh injuries during the 2009/10 campaign ensured that the giant defender appeared in just 33 matches in all competitions.

Indeed, removal of the international game from Vidić’s roster will free the player of around 30 games over the final three years of the player’s current contract. Additional breaks during the season and a full summer rest will do nothing but ensure Vidić spends more time on the Old Trafford pitch, captaining United to ever more domestic and European glory.

Vidić’s decision, if formally confirmed, lies is in stark contrast to that made by Rio Ferdinand, who is willing to fight on for a place in the England squad. The 32-year-old Londoner was left out of Fabio Capello’s squad for the recent game against Montenegro, with the Italian warning Ferdinand must play more regularly if the former Leeds United man is to regain his place.

Indeed, repeated injury and the progression of younger defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones is placing Ferdinand under increasing pressure both with England and at United. Ferdinand may well suffer if he continues to chase both.

Meanwhile, Vidić’s apparent decision to hand over the international reigns to younger players and concentrate on a club career will only increase the Serbian’s importance to United.

Stability key to Reds continued success

Ed August 11, 2011 Tags: , Opinion 3 comments

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.

Reds put boot in on Blues ahead of semi

Ed April 14, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 17 comments

There’s nothing quite like kicking on old foe when he’s down; a habit doing the rounds at Old Trafford it seems, with key defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand cranking up the pressure ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final. Indeed, with Ferdinand claiming City’s sulking players would never make it at Old Trafford, and Vidic mocking the Blues’ desperation for a trophy, United’s finest have been unusually vocal during the build up to the big match.

Yet, there is more than a little truth to the pair’s comments this week. After all it is now more than 35 years since City’s last trophy – the 1976 League Cup – and with more than £150 million spent in the transfer market since Abu Dhabi’s takeover, silverware is long overdue.

Should City fail to lift the FA Cup or qualify for the Champions league – or possibly both – Roberto Mancini will almost certainly be out of a job come May. The Italian might well be anyway, with his squad in near riotous mutiny at times this season. James Milner’s tantrum on Monday night only served to highlight a growing problem at the Eastlands club, according to some observers.

It’s a crucial difference between United and City, says Ferdinand.

“You don’t see anyone come off the pitch shaking their head or being disgruntled or sitting on the bench in a sulk at this club,” said Ferdinand of City’s off-the-pitch troubles this season.

“That’s because everyone is delighted to play for this club and they all want to be here. The moment you show a bit of dissent like that, the manager pulls rank, and rightly so. It keeps people on their toes. People want to play here, they don’t want to be part of any other squad, and that’s the way it is at United.

“It comes out of respect for the manager, the club itself and the people who are here before you and present as well. There’s an unwritten rule here. You see it in the changing-room before games – there are no cliques. Players are wishing each other well before games, even if someone else is playing in your position. That’s just the way we are.”

But Ferdinand says nobody at United is taking Saturday’s semi for granted despite City’s heavy loss to Liverpool on Monday night. Indeed, even if former Red Carlos Tevez is out of the tie due to a hamstring injury, City can call on more than £50 million of forward talent in Mario Ballotelli and Edin Dzeko.

“We need to make sure we put the bad result they had against Liverpool out of the equation and treat it like any other game,” adds Ferdinand, who has returned to full fitness in time for the season’s dénouement.

“City have invested heavily in a lot of players so they’ve got a lot of talented players to come in [if Carlos Tevez is injured]. You don’t spend £27 million on a player who is average. Edin Dzeko is a good player, he’s played Champions League football for a few years, he’s won the league in Germany, so he’s a good player. We won’t be underestimating City.”

It is this heavy spending, allied with United’s excellent position in both Premier and Champions Leagues that means the pressure is heaped on City this weekend, according to captain Vidic. With many pundits predicting that City and not United would mount a title challenge this season, Mancini must deliver on last season’s promise to “tear down” the Stretford End banner than mocks City’s long run without silverware.

“Manchester City have an obsession about winning a trophy,” Vidic told the Daily Telegraph.

“After the big money they have spent, they want to win their first trophy. In the last few years we have had a lot of success. We have always been in quarter-finals, semi-finals, two Champions League finals. We are playing at the top level. Every team wants to do their best against us. But we will be ready.

“We don’t want to be arrogant or think we are the specials. We are just trying to do our best. Manchester City will be a very difficult game but a few players haven’t won the FA Cup, myself included, and we are hungry to achieve it.”

United supporters will take heart in Vidic’s words, even if the FA Cup surely Ferguson’s lowest priority during the run-in. This is especially true given the packed Premier and Champions League schedule over the next month. However, with Ferdinand, Vidic and a number of other United stars having missed out on a cup final win – United hasn’t emerged victorious in the showpiece since beating Millwall 2004 – there remains a hunger to win.

It’s a fact that gives Saturday’s fixture an extra edge and one that may just colour Ferguson’s thinking. In recent cup semi-finals the United manager has heavily rotated, especially in the 2009 loss to Everton in which Ferguson selected several fringe squad members. However, last season’s Carling Cup semi with City saw Ferguson deploy his strongest line-up. It’s a fact supporters will draw on ahead of Saturday’s match at Wembley.

The defence has it

Ed January 17, 2011 Tags: , , , , Opinion 23 comments

Should Manchester United complete a 19th domestic title come May it will have little to do with star player Wayne Rooney. Nor, though influential, will Nani take the plaudits. Ditto Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Anderson. Much as United’s attacking players can take overdue credit for becoming the division’s the second highest goalscorers, it is the defence that will win it.

Indeed, so imperious have captain Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand been this season that there is surely no better central defensive partnership in world football. Coupled with Patrice Evra’s status as the finest left-back on the planet, Rafael da Silva’s rapid progress and Edwin van der Sar’s assured composure and United may well land the title despite a paucity of creative options.

United’s strengths and weaknesses were exposed against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with the Reds watertight in defence despite playing the final quarter with 10 men. At the same time, United created too few chances to win at White Hart Lane as the visitors drew an eighth Premier League match on the road this season.

No wonder Sir Alex Ferguson was fulsome in his praise of his back five, whose control over Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon was almost total. That Spurs managed just two strikes on target is symptomatic of just how well marshalled Vidic’s colleagues are this season.

“The kind of pressure we were under were just long balls into the box really,” claimed Ferguson today.

“With Ferdinand and Vidic as your centre-backs you know you can cope with that. They were fantastic. The whole back four did really, really well.

“In the context of Tottenham’s home record this season and the performances they have given, we have got to take it as a good point for us.”

Even Rafael, harshly sent off for a second bookable offence with twenty minutes to go, drew praise from colleagues for another mature performance that largely kept Bale at check.

Should United win the title by that single point gained in London then Ferguson will be have much to celebrate. Yet, it is not a single season transformation in United’s play that has seen the Reds become so secure at the back. Critics can – and do – point to the fundamental change in United’s style over the past decade, from the side that scored three against Barcelona, twice, in the swashbuckling 1999 season, to the often overly cautious outfit we see today.

While United did not exactly morphed Jose Mourinho’s Inter at Camp Nou circa Spring 2010, there have been times when the Reds have performed a passable impression. It is not the ‘United way’ perhaps but one that fans have become accustomed too over the past decade.

Part of United’s metamorphosis over the years is down to Ferguson’s obsession with performing in Europe. Largely it has worked. Yet, much of the Reds’ style this season is surely down to the dearth of attacking creative talent in the squad, with Rooney too often anonymous, Nani still inconsistent, Antonio Valencia injured and Paul Scholes’ legs finding no friend in father time.

It showed against Spurs, with the Reds managing just seven shots – on target or not – in the match. No enough for the pretenders to Chelsea’s thrown. Similar sterile performances have been evident in many of United’s away fixtures at home and abroad this season.

“We didn’t bother them too much,” admitted Ferguson

“We had one or two good opportunities at times when we got to the last third of the field but we just didn’t quite have the cutting edge. In the second half Anderson attacked the back four four times and maybe his selection of pass or a shot on goal would have been better.”

It is, always has been and one wonders whether it always will be the Brazilian’s principal failing. For a player so widely touted – including by Ferguson himself – as the natural successor to Scholes, Anderson does not score, nor create goals or even retain possession more than three-quarters of the time.

In defence United’s resources will be stretched in coming games, with Rafael set to miss at least one match, possibly more, after the Football Association charged the 20-year-old defender with improper conduct today. Little wonder after the youngster both disputed referee Mike Dean’s erroneous decision and then refused to promptly leave the field.

“It was Mary Decker and Zola Budd,” said Spurs’ manager Harry Redknapp in the Brazilian’s defence.

“He was just running and he has clipped Benoît’s heels. He has not broken his stride and stuck a leg out, saying ‘I’ll trip him’. He was trying to get out of the way.”

But with Rafael out, John O’Shea injured and Wes Brown all but forgotten at Old Trafford, Ferguson may turn to the Brazilian’s brother Fabio, who featured in United reserves’ 8-0 win over Bury this week. Often touted as the more talented sibling, Fabio’s progress has been hampered by Evra’s outstanding form and persistent injuries.

With Rafael set to miss fixtures against Birmingham City and potentially Blackpool in the coming week, Fabio’s ability to integrate into United’s outstanding back-five will be severely tested. As will United’s title credentials.

Vidic set on move but will Reds let go?

Ed July 20, 2010 Tags: Opinion 40 comments

Let’s be honest, Nemanja Vidic wants out of Old Trafford. The only question is whether Sir Alex Ferguson will countenance a sale with no obvious replacement available. More to the point the Serbian defender, 28, has not been offered a new deal at the club despite only two years remaining on the defender’s contract.

It’s a saga that has rumbled on for more than a year, with Vidic and his outspoken agent, Paolo Fabbri, keen to secure a contract that will put the Serbian’s wages on a par with Rio Ferdinand at £120,000 per week. Grotesque perhaps but the undoubtedly the going rate for a player of Vidic’s class, experience and status in the world game.

United, burdened by an ever growing wage bill and huge debts, seem unlikely to meet the player’s demands this summer, risking a knock-down fee in 2011 or, worse still, a free transfer out of Old Trafford in two years time.

Discount the contradictory quotes by the former Spartak Moscow defender, who is smart enough not to alienate his employers and the club’s fans before a move out of Manchester is secured, and focus on the cold hard cash. In the inflated market, Vidic is worth more than his £70,000 per week and he knows it.

No surprise then that Europe’s leading clubs including both Milan teams, Barcelona and latterly Real Madrid have expressed an interest in the defender, whom Fabbri has successfully hawked around the continent in recent months. Indeed, shortly prior to the World Cup the agent refused to rule out a move in the kind of non-denial-denial that is so common of the football transfer market today.

“We are waiting for Nemanja to tell us what we he wants to do,” Fabbri said.

“We are waiting as it is up to him. It won’t be until after the World Cup he makes a decision on his future. We have requested some time from Manchester United to think about things and Nemanja does not want to look at things until after the World Cup. Any eventual transfer will take place only after the World Cup.”

Hardly a declaration of his client’s love for the United shirt.

But will, should, could Ferguson permit the defender the transfer he desires? After all the manager’s justification for taking Real Madrid’s £80 million last summer was that “the boy wanted to move on,” just as Vidic does today.

There are subtle differences of course. While Ronaldo’s desire to play for Real Madrid had very little to do with money, Vidic’s dissatisfaction is primarily economic. The outcome is the same though, with Ferguson effectively asking Ronaldo to stay at the club an extra year in 2008 before granting the player a move.

United could pull the same trick with Vidic during the current window of course but the effect, with the player turning 29 this season and the clock running down on his contract, will be felt by the Old Trafford bean counters. After all, the £20 million plus fee United might expect to receive will reduce by up to half next summer. In the club’s current financial situation that is relevant.

Then there is the prickly question of United’s squad that suffered so much with injuries in defensive positions last season. Rio Ferdinand’s fitness can no longer be relied on; back injuries just don’t heal. Meanwhile, Jonny Evans has less than 60 starts in a red shirt, and new signing Chris Smalling none at all.

It is, or course, a scenario that points to Vidic remaining at the club no matter how much his agent works against United’s interests.

The worry for the club’s supporters though is that with cash haemorrhaging out of the bank account in interest payments and the Glazer family so obviously restricting the manager’s transfer activity, Ferguson may not get the final say.

Vidic blames missed chances

Ed June 14, 2010 Tags: , International No comments

Manchester United’s giant defender Nemanja Vidic admitted his side was punished for failing to take chances, after Serbia lost its first World Cup finals match as a fully independent nation. The group D fixture, held in Pretoria, ended 1-0 to the Ghana after Serbia’s creative players largely failed to perform for Radomir Antić’s side.

Ghana, the more offensive team throughout, struggled to break down Antić’s celebrated back-four until Udinese defender Luković saw red in the 74th minute for a second bookable offence. Substitute Stuttgart midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanović then inexplicably handled inside the area with just five minutes to go, allowing the outstanding Asamoah Gyan to convert the resulting penalty and secure the Black Stars’ win.

“I think it was a penalty. I think he touched the ball with his hand,” Vidic admitted after the match.

“But I think we had a few chances. We didn’t score a goal and we got punished. It was a very important game to lose but we have to keep going and to focus on the next two matches.

“I leave to you to decide if it was a red card or not. I have my opinion but I’m not going to tell it to you.”

Vidic criticised – as many have – the new Jubilani ball but admitted that both sides have to play with it.

“I think many players said a lot of things about the ball. I need just to say when it’s going long or crosses it’s a very difficult ball for the forwards and the defenders,” he explained.

“But it’s the same, for them and for us, it’s the same ball.”

Serbia’s famed back-four stood firm but Antić’s attacking players failed to spark at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. While Nemanja Vidić and company repelled Ghana’s effervescent forwards, questions will be asked of Miloš Krasić, Marko Pantelić and Nikola Žigić who created few chances in a low-quality match.

Serbia must now win twice against Australia and Germany to guarantee progression in the tournament

Vidic: I’m not leaving part 673

Ed April 7, 2010 Tags: Shorts No comments

The tiresome Nemanja Vidic will-he-won’t-he leave saga rumbles on with the giant Serbian defender denying reports he is seeking a transfer. The former Spartak Moscow player, injured for much of the season, told club mouthpiece United Review that ‘other people’ have created speculation about his long-term future at Manchester United.

“I have never said anything about wanting to leave,” said Vidic, who is yet to sign a new contract with the club.

“The speculation has all been generated by other people.”

“I think one reason it went on for so long was because I was injured and didn’t have many chances to speak out about the issue.”

“But I haven’t spoken to any other clubs.”

“United is a great club. I have had a lot of success and made a name for myself here. I appreciate all of that.”

Vidic’s deal with Untied runs to June 2012, with a constant stream of press reports that AC Milan, Real Madrid and Barcelona want to acquire the defender’s signature.

Reports suggest the defender wants a bumper £100,000 per week contract to stay at Old Trafford, while this month’s Red Issue fanzine suggests a deal with Real was signed last December.

Rant’s money is firmly on the latter.

Vidic: bring on Rooney!

Ed March 17, 2010 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic says Wayne Rooney is the best striker in the world but that he can’t wait to face the England player at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer. Serbia is in group D along with Germany, Ghana and Australia but the draw means Vidic and Rooney could come face to face in round two.

“Wayne is definitely the best striker in the world,” Vidic told the Daily Mirror.

“And sharing the same dressing room, it would be fun to play against him. One of us would have to lose and he’s a great player, who would be hard to keep quiet.

“But that’s the challenge. That’s why you play football. I mentioned to him that if we got through we have a chance to meet England. He said ‘Serbia? Who plays for them?’

“He was joking. Wayne knows we’re doing well and not an easy team.”

England, drawn in Group C, face Algeria, Slovenia and the USA in the first round with the competition kicking off on June 11 in Johannesburg.