Red Devils’ rock

Nemanja Vidic’s contribution to Manchester United was greatly appreciated and he was recently named the club’s players’ and fans’ Player of the Year.

If you are going to nudge the world from its post-turkey slumbers and announce a major signing on Christmas Day it needs to be a good one.

On the face of it, the arrival of Nemanja Vidic from Spartak Moscow to Manchester United hardly seemed worth the hassle.

True, Vidic had been part of a Serbia defence that had reached the World Cup finals without conceding a goal in qualifying, and the former Red Star Belgrade player had developed a reputation in his homeland for mixing an uncompromising attitude to defending with a fairly deft touch on the ball.

Nevertheless, at GBP7.2 million, Vidic’s arrival at Old Trafford for less than a quarter of the sum it cost to get Rio Ferdinand from Leeds was at the time noteworthy more for the day United chose to announce his capture rather than the guy who was involved.

Nothing much changed when he started to play. On his debut in a League Cup semifinal against Blackburn, or immediately afterwards in an FA Cup tie at Wolves, Vidic appeared ill at ease.

A few days later David Bentley scored a hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat at Ewood Park and the knives were being sharpened. Even Vidic did not know whether he had done the right thing by moving to England. Two months after the catastrophic UEFA Champions League group stage exit, Vidic appeared to have joined a busted flush of a club.

Slowly, though, he started to find his feet. A substitute appearance in the Carling Cup final win over Wigan gave Vidic his first medal in English football and when the following campaign began, his style had been adapted almost perfectly.

So, while there can be many candidates for United’s Player of the Season, and it is fitting and proper Ryan Giggs should be honoured by the Professional Footballers’ Association for all that he has achieved in a stellar career, Vidic’s contribution is unmatched.

Although Vidic, 27, was overlooked for the big prize, his contribution was greatly appreciated and he was recently named Manchester United’s players’ and fans’ Player of the Year.

A very well-earned honour for a man who was the only ever-present outfield member of a defence that kept 13 successive clean sheets from late November 2008 to the beginning of March 2009.

Although, Edwin van der Sar was there as well, with admirable support from John O’Shea, Vidic had to play alongside Jonny Evans, 21, and guide him through as Ferdinand nursed his bad back.

Evans is a player of immense promise. But his age means the right decisions cannot always be expected at the right time. On the occasions Evans got it wrong, Vidic was there to tidy up. His positional sense and ability to win the ball are uncanny. Only against one opponent this season has Vidic got it badly wrong, being twice outwitted and eventually sent off in defeat to Liverpool.

There is an argument that if Vidic cannot get it right against United’s nearest challengers, how can he be considered the team’s most influential player? But equally, his other 36 performances cannot be overlooked either. And during that long record-breaking run without conceding a goal, Vidic hardly put a foot wrong.

Born in Titovo Uzice, Vidic learnt the game alongside his brother Dusan with local clubs Jedinstvo Uzice and Sloboda Uzice. His talent was soon spotted by Red Star Belgrade and he spent his early teenage years progressing through its youth ranks, also flirting with a loan spell with Spartak Subotica before returning to Belgrade.

It was on his return where Vidic would really blossom and he went on to make 67 appearances for Red Star.

As United fans have seen over the past few years the burly centre-half is as invaluable in the opponents penalty area as he is in his own and 12 goals in his career at Red Star represents a very handy return.

In 2004, Vidic captained Red Star to double, although it was to be his last season in Belgrade as he was touted by Russian giants Spartak Moscow, which paid GBP6 million for his services.

Vidic was also showing his potential on the international scene and after making his debut in October 2002 against Italy, he became a key member of the side which qualified for the 2006 World Cup.

His impressive performances in the Russian Premier League caught the eye of Manchester United and he was snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson for just over GBP7 million in January 2006.

The rest, as they say, is history, as the towering defender has gone on to more than repay the modest transfer fee and has continued to be one of the standout performers in the season so far.

Ill-discipline has troubled Vidic throughout his career and he is regarded as somewhat of a hot-head in footballing terms. He has been given his marching orders twice this season, both times coming against arch-rival Liverpool. On each occasion his dismissal has been costly as United went on to lose both games.

Vidic married Ana Ivanovic on July 17, 2006 and the couple has a son called Luka.

Vidic is among a host of Premier League stars who drive a BMW X5 4.81SE. But the United defender has not had the best luck with cars in the past. While at Red Star Belgrade his drive was smashed up by his own club’s supporters after he appeared in a photo-shoot with Sasa Ilic — the captain of rival team Partizan Belgrade.

Factfile Name: Nemanja Vidic Position: Defender Club: Manchester United D.O.B.: October 21, 1981 Serbia caps: 39 Serbia goals: 2 Serbia debut: October 12, 2002 v Italy Moment to remember

Manchester United capped another fruitful season last term with the memorable UEFA Champions League victory over Chelsea. Vidic was the key in its run to the final and impressed in Moscow, where the team emerged winner after a penalty shoot-out.

Moment to forget

It is hard to point the finger at Vidic following what has been a remarkable season for him, but the home fixture with Liverpool proved that the big Serbian was human after all. Leading 1-0, the champion side was on its way to yet another three points, but was pegged back when a slip by Vidic gifted the ball to Fernando Torres who equalised for the visiting team. Thereafter the game was transformed and United went on to lose 4-1, with Vidic sent off after two yellow cards.

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