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Idols: Nemanja Vidic, putting his body in the way of anything…

Nemanja Vidic was a defender in every sense of the word. Never shy to throw his body in front of a shot to prevent the goal, he was a throwback to the defenders that garnished our grandparent’s generation of football. This throwback style earned him glory from the supporters and respect from the enemies of the club. He is one of the most important players to ever don a Manchester United kit.

Sir Alex Ferguson bought the Serbian international from Spartak Moscow for a fee of £7 million just over a decade ago. Instantly pairing with Rio Ferdinand, Vidic quickly earned himself a place on the squad sheet and in the fan’s hearts. Thumping headers, quick interceptions, and crunching tackles put Vidic in the spotlight. How important and valued was he, though? Let’s start with his transfer. For the above-mentioned sum, Manchester United obviously knew they got him for a bargain. In today’s market, the likes of John Stones was recently purchased for a little more than £50 million. This means Vidic would have likely been sold in this market for anything north of £62 million. Instantly inserted into the lineup, Vidic became a bedrock for the squad for nearly a decade. So yes, Manchester United got a club defining defender for a youth squad player transfer price.

Along with the outlandishly low price the Red Devil’s paid, Vidic’s style of play was highly instrumental to the success of the club during his years. Able to dominate the box, Vidic was the last line of defence for the squad. Pairing with the ball hawking Ferdinand, Vidic’s physicality would dominate opponents. This type of play is clearly missing in today’s game, especially within the current squad. Vidic’s partnership with Ferdinand will go down in the history books, as well as his individual ability.

With not only domestic success, but internationally too, Vidic rose to global prominence. By helping Manchester United succeed, he was the first player on the team sheet for the largest global football club during his time. This earned him international call-ups. Playing for Serbia, Vidic led the team to a top of the table finish during the 2010 World Cup. While the success of the national team faltered once the tournament started, Vidic quickly gained international popularity for his style of play, earning him the nickname: The Serbian Destroyer.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson, Vidic was able to provide security for the squad. His aggression was vital to breaking up play. His passing released the wingers and forwards to get in behind the opposing defence. One of his most important contributions to the squad, though, was his calmness.

Many players have had the ability and aggression of Vidic. Yet, rarely do they combine the two to form a center back that will hone the aggression and release it at the right time. Too often, a player has too much aggression to the point where it becomes reckless. Phil Jones comes to mind when discussing the consequences of being overly aggressive. Sometimes, a player keeps their aggression and physical play at bay, yet it builds up and comes barreling out at inopportune moments. Think, Chris Smalling, receiving a red card a few years back during a crucial Manchester Derby. Vidic, however, can control his aggression. Sure, he has given up penalties over the course of the years, but in today’s plethora of forwards who double as Olympic divers, a good slide tackle can often lead to a bad call from the referee. Vidic rarely loses his cool, and when he has, it doesn’t lead to being sent off or costing the team three crucial points.

Vidic may be a throwback to generations past, but he is also an example of how crucial a club needs controlled brutality in the back of the squad. Look at our squad since Vidic left for Inter Milan in 2014. We have, arguably, the most talented goalie in the world in David De Gea, yet we can’t put out a formidable defensive line to protect him. We throw Daley Blind on the back line to control the game, but his lack of athletic prowess has cost us crucial goals. The above mentioned Jones has been a promising talent, for almost five years now. Since he can’t stay healthy, he is rarely consistently called upon. His injuries are usually his fault, too.

He goes in very hard, usually during practice, and injures himself, as well as others. This past winter he took out United teammates, Smalling and Wayne Rooney with a careless slide tackle during training. Speaking of Smalling, he had a run of a few good games in the previous campaign, yet once again has fallen into obscurity. This is both due to a lack of on the ball skill, and aggression. Two attributes Vidic had never been short of. Thankfully, the front office of Manchester United brought in Eric Bailly last year, a center back that has become a similar version of Vidic. Finally, Manchester United have found an heir to Vidic.

Nemanja Vidic produced, at the highest level, for both club and country. After a decade of success, his leaving paved the way to depressing times for Manchester United. For these sole reasons, he has placed himself as an icon at the club. He was truly loved and supported, now, he is dearly missed.

Written by Jordan Bullock

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