Manchester United Career Details:
Signed From: Spartak Moscow, December 2005 by Sir Alex Ferguson
Position: Centre Back
Appearances (Goals): 211 (15) between January 2006 and May 2014
Team Honours: Premier League (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013), League Cup (2006, 2009, 2010), FA Community Shield (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013), UEFA Champions’ League (2008), FIFA Club World Cup (2008)
Individual Honours: PFA Team of the Year (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), Premier League Team of the Season (2009, 2011), FIFA World XI (2009, 2011)
Manchester United signed Nemanja Vidic from relative obscurity in 2005, but after scouting him for two years, the club almost missed their opportunity to secure his signature. Spartak Moscow had agreed terms with Serie A club Fiorentina’s sporting director, Pantaleo Corvino. What Corvino didn’t take into consideration, however, was Fiorentina’s current Non-EU player regulations which forced the transfer to be delayed. United saw this as their opportunity and swooped in for Vidic before Fiorentina had time to react.
Though a standout player for Red Star Belgrade, Spartak Moscow and the Serbian national team, he struggled in the first six months of his United career. Signed alongside the eccentric Patrice Evra, the two would often talk about how the Premier League was much faster and stronger than what they were used to, they worried they had made a mistake. Despite his insecurities, Vidic went on to make eleven full appearances for the First Team in his debut season, and helped secure his first ever trophy in a United shirt; the League Cup.
After his uncertainties during his first few months at the club, Nemanja soon developed a formidable relationship with defensive partner Rio Ferdinand. The pair were a mainstay for Sir Alex’s arguably greatest years as Manchester United manager and were highly regarded as one of the best Centre Back pairings ever to grace the Premier League. From 2006 onwards, Vidic secured his place in fans’ hearts as a cult hero for his no-nonsense, aggressive defending. Often compared to Steve Bruce for sharing similar characteristics, he was willing to put his body on the line for his team and the footballing world came to love him for doing so. The Serbian’s leadership and consistency shone through from the moment he joined; having been exposed to the Serbian national team just nine days before his twenty-first birthday, he went on to become an integral part of the “famous four” defence, which conceded just one goal in the ten-game qualification stage for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
In the season which saw Vidic win his first of two Player of the Season awards, he aided United in keeping a record-breaking fourteen consecutive clean sheets. Needless to say, that was also the year in which the Red Devils won their third consecutive Premier League title. Upon winning his second Player of the Season during the year of his captaincy and final league title, Vidic became only the third player in history to have won more than one of the award, after Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Famed for his aggressive style, Nemanja wasn’t one to hide from tough opposition. He relished the battles on the pitch and at times paid the price for his attitude; he still holds the Premier League record for most red cards against a single opponent with four against Liverpool, which he set in his last season for the club. Of course, another reason why he is a fan favourite.
Entering into Ferguson’s (and eventually his own) final years at the club, Vidic struggled with niggling injuries. A calf injury early in the 11-12 campaign saw him side-lined for five weeks, then a twisted knee two months later ended his season. Though he stayed fit through the pre-season, an injury to the same knee saw him miss eight weeks of the 12-13 season in which United won a record twentieth Premier League title. It was after that season with the introduction of David Moyes, that Vidic decided his tenure as a United player would be coming to an end.
A move to Internazionale came about after the club snapped him up on a free in 2014. Though he showed signs of his former self, Vidic’s time at Inter was far below the standards we had come to expect from the Serbian Centre Back. Errors on the field and the appointment of Roberto Mancini saw Vidic relegated to the bench in favour of Inter’s up and coming defenders Ranocchia and Juan Jesus. Despite re-establishing himself as a first team defender after injuries to key players, Vidic only played twenty-three games for the Serie A giants and announced his retirement from football after ending his contract by mutual consent.
Vidic will forever hold a place in Manchester United fans’ hearts because he epitomised the no-nonsense, hard-working spirit of the fans themselves. He remained humble throughout his career and understood the importance of getting the job done by any means necessary, not to mention his apparent hatred for all things Liverpool, which is always a winner. Guiding his club to countless trophies, he became one of the Premier League’s most decorated defenders and etched his name into Manchester United folklore as an example to future generations. He may have left the club, but he will never be forgotten.