He came, he saw, he conquered: Nemanja Vidic is about to face the exit sign at Old Trafford and here's my take on the great Serbian rock, who could've been even greater, as he's currently preparing for a new chapter dressed in black and blue in Milano.
On the 7 February, Nemanja Vidic confirmed his United exit in the summer and today, 5 March, his deal with the Italian outfit Internazionale found its way to the public press. Here's my take on the Serbian centre-back who, paired with Rio Ferdinand, made one of the best defending partnerships in recent football history.
When the colossal skipper ruptured his cruciate ligament on that horrific night against Basel in 2011, he effectively ended his United career. The former Red Star Belgrade youth product has never managed to climb back to his former (sublime) self and the exit has been on the cards for some time. However, despite being such a vital figure of United's four Premier League crowns and the three Champions League finals between 2007 and '11 (yes, I'm completely aware of him being on board last season too, but his impact was heavily reduced), he'll never become a personal favourite of mine.
The captaincy conundrum
After the skipper Gary Neville got injured against Bolton in March 2007 and spent the rest of his United career fighting occasional inuries, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand were the ones leading the line in his absence. At the time, Ferdinand looked the obvious choice to follow in the footsteps of Neville, Keane and Cantona, wearing the armband on a weekly basis. On the other hand, Ferdinand's centre-back comrade was frequently surrounded by transfer rumours.
However, in the summer of 2010, Vidic put the speculations to bed by signing a four-year contract extension. Subsequently it was only a matter of weeks before he was handed the captain's armband on a permanent basis. Isn't this a bit weird? In all of a sudden he went from fourth/fifth(?) choice to the undubious number one overnight - coincidentally following a contract renewal? In my opinion that speaks volumes on the armband being used as a bait to make him remain at Old Trafford for several more years, which I thing is handing it out on the wrong grounds. This is fuelled by the fact that Vida never has appeared as the most vocal players on the pitch, which is the captain's main task during a game. If he really needed, or demanded by any means, such an honour, added to the fact on being one of the highest earners at the club and a regular any day of the week, it's a major scratch on the defending diamond.
The dawn of the red
As well as lacking vocal presence, Vidic is now jumping ship while the team is struggling like never before. Announcing his departure half-way through a end-to-end calamity campaign didn't probably pull United in the right direction, as the 'United even lose their skipper' headlines rallied through the paper. And when the captain basically flees away on the first sign of struggle, what kind of message does that leave for the rest of the squad?
You may very well argue that Keane did the same thing, as United weren't enjoying the best of days in the autumn of 2005 either, as Chelsea seemed seven miles ahead of any other side in the title race and appeared to be strong enough to maintain that position for years. But at least his outrage on MUTV stated a caring approach; he wanted United to bounce back. (I agree that he pushed it too far and support Fergie's decision of terminating the contract, as the Fergie/Keano relationship went beyond a point of no return, but at least he showed signs of caring.) The captain is supposed be the last man aboard, but Vidic leaves as soon as there is an inch of water on the deck. Personally I'd like a captain doing the exact opposite. This is why I think the 32-year-old is (has been) a far superior player compared to what he is as a captain and leader.
The remainder of the season
So what is David Moyes supposed to do now? The rock solid Ferdinand/Vidic cooperation is highly expected to leave Old Trafford in the summer. Vidic's departure is already confirmed and anything else than Rio Ferdinand packing up his five caps and joining him would be highly surprising. The season is already ruined beyond repair, so the best thing Moyes could do is picking two out of the three remaining centre-backs and give them a run together, to see if they're capable of replacing the the Anglo-Serbian pairing that conquered England, Europe and the world. Meanwhile, both Ferdinand and Vidic should be sat on the bench or in the stands unless injuries come knocking on the door again, and the latter should be stripped of the armband in my opinion.
A relentless fighter
However, despite the flaws mentioned, Nemanja Vidic has put some serious shifts in for Manchester United and deserves tons of credit for doing so. Throwing his head in where others hesitate to put a boot deserves a standing ovation from nearly 80.000 people when he bows out against Sunderland in the final home game of the season. His tremendous United career, hoarding silverware like there was no tomorrow, is barely replicated by any player at any club across the globe and nearly three-hundred memorable games after his debut in the League Cup semi-final against Blackburn in 2006, it's time to say goodbye - or arrivederci as they say in Milano - to one of the true greats in recent United history.
This post is also published at the Manchester United supporters' site TalkoftheDevils.com