Some footballers are born to protect and become the silent guardians of their respective clubs. From 2003 to 2006, Sir Alex Ferguson‘s Manchester United was falling short of other top Premier League sides and couldn’t reach the coveted trophy for 3 years, the longest run without a league title since the inclusion of Premier League in 1992. Their shortcomings were vastly seen in their defence and led to conceding a large number of cringe goals.
Sir Alex signed England International Rio Ferdinand in 2002 but that wasn’t adequate and the Englishman was in a dire need of a worthy partner alongside him. Then came the winter transfer window of 2 006 and a big Serbian boy named Nemanja Vidic from Spartak Moscow with all the potential to become a modern-day great defender who came to Manchester with a pair of dreamy eyes. And the rest is, as they say, history and trophies. Nemanja Vidic came to protect the Red Side of Manchester and to establish the famous quote of Sir Alex Ferguson, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. We’ll take a look back on the career of one of the best centre backs of the game.
Childhood and Youth Career
Born on 21st October, 1981 in Titovo Užice town of then SFR Yugoslavia, Nemanja started playing football as early as age 6. In 1989, at the age of 8 he joined local side Jedinstvo Užice as a youth player and then moved to Sloboda Užice in 19954. After 2 years with Sloboda, he finally joined the youth academy of one of the best football clubs of his country, Red Star Belgrade.
After being promoted to Red Star’s first team in 2000 he was loaned to Spartak Subotica for the 2000-01 season. He came back to Red Star in 2001 and played there for 3 seasons till 2004. Even at such a young age, he captained the side which nothing but indicates the natural leadership quality of him. He left Red Star in 2004 after playing 96 games and scoring 16 times with them across all competitions.
After leaving his country Vidic set for Russia for the next chapter of his playing career and joined Russian Premier League side Spartak Moscow in an undisclosed fee but he was rumoured to be the most expensive defender of all-time in Russian Premier League at that time. He played till 2006 in Russia and made 41 appearances for the Moscow outfit across all competitions.
After two-and-a-half years of speculation, Nemanja Vidić finally signed for Manchester United for a fee of around £7 million on 25 December 2005 and joined the club on 5 January 2006 after his work permit was granted. On this transfer saga, United beat out Fiorentina of Italy for Vidić’s signature as the transfer had already been agreed with the club’s Sporting Director, Pantaleo Corvino. Since Fiorentina had to wait in order to complete the signing due to not having any free non-EU spots on its roster at the time, United stepped in and hijacked the transfer.
He was given the number 15 shirt and on 25 January 2006, Nemanja Vidic made his United debut as a substitute for Ruud van Nistelrooy in the dying minutes of a 2–1 win in the League Cup semi-final second leg against Blackburn Rovers. On 16 February 2006, Vidić won his first trophy with United, coming on in the 83rd minute for Wes Brown in the 2006 League Cup final win against Wigan Athletic.
Nemanja Vidić although received a medal for his appearance in the final, but he gave it to team-mate Giuseppe Rossi in recognition of Rossi’s contributions in the earlier rounds of the competition and this gesture made him instant famous among the Manchester United faithful.
Nemanja Vidic filled the evident void in United defence partnering with fellow defender Rio Ferdinand and this defensive duo became one of the most formidable in the Premier League and European Football. In 2006-07 season he played in 25 league games for the Reds and won the league title in his first full season with the club. United continued to win league titles in the next two campaign as well becoming the first team to win a hat-trick of league titles not once but twice in the Premier League era. A record which is still untouched.
In November 2007, he signed a five-year contract extension for United and went on to win ‘The Double’ of League title and UEFA Champions League with the Red Devils in 2007-08 season. Vidic made his name in the United folklore after dropping gargantuan performances week in week out and even entered within the discussions of the best defenders in English Football till date. United fans gave a nickname to their defensive wall, ‘Vida’ and made a famous chant on him for his killer instinct in the football field.
Nemanja whoa, Nemanja whoa, He come’s from Serbia, He’ll f*cking murder ye…Iconic chant made by United Fans for Nemanja Vidic
2008-09 season is regarded as the best of Vidic’s career when he reached the zenith as a defender. The partnership of Vidic-Ferdinand at the defence and Edwin Van der Sar in goal become unbreakable as United kept clean sheets in 14 consecutive Premier League games a record still intact. United finished the season as the league winners with 28 wins and 24 clean sheets. However, Nemanja missed his second successive UEFA Champions League trophy winners’ medal after a shock defeat at the hands of FC Barcelona in the final.
Nemanja Vidic was nominated for PFA Player of the year award in 2009 along with four of his United teammates but eventually his fellow teammate Ryan Giggs claimed the title. Nemanja Vidic was named Premier League player of the year instead and also bagged Manchester United’s prestigious Sir Matt Busby Player of The Year succeeding fellow teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.
On 23 July 2010, it was reported that Vidić had extended his contract with Manchester United by agreeing to a new long-term contract, ending long-running speculation of a move to Real Madrid. Nemanja Vidić scored his first goal of the season on 11 September away to Everton to put his side 1–2 up, the game ending with a dramatic finish, with the final score 3–3. After captaining Manchester United for the first five matches of the 2010–11 season, manager Sir Alex Ferguson later confirmed that Vidić had taken over from Gary Neville as team and club captain on a permanent basis.
On 30 October, Vidić scored his first goal as United captain in a 2–0 league win against Tottenham Hotspur the 1,000th goal to be scored at Old Trafford in the Premier League. On 1 March 2011, Nemanja Vidić was sent off in stoppage time in an intense match against Chelsea for a foul on Ramires. Chelsea won the game 2–1. Nemanja Vidić got his revenge on 8 May, when he scored against Chelsea to end their title aspirations in a 2–1 victory, which also propelled United toward a record-breaking 19th Premier league title leapfrogging arch-rivals Liverpool, a feat which was completed the following week at Blackburn Rovers.
Vidic’s 2011-12 season was disturbed by injuries. On 7 December 2011, Vidić twisted his knee during United’s Champions League clash at Basel and left the field on a stretcher. Manager Alex Ferguson later confirmed that he would miss the rest of the season. He returned to action for United in the first game of 2012-13 season a 1-0 away defeat to Everton. United, however, went on to win the league that season becoming the first team to win 20 English Top Flight titles.
After Sir Alex’s retirement in 2013, Nemanja Vidic also announced that he’ll be leaving the club at the end of the season when his contract expires.
I’m not considering staying in England as the only club I ever wanted to play for here is Manchester UnitedNemanja Vidic on his future in 2013
On 16 March 2014, Vidić received his second yellow card and was subsequently sent off on 77 minutes in a 3–0 home defeat against Liverpool. Nemanja Vidić’s expulsion totaled to four red cards against Liverpool during his career at Manchester United, more than any other player against an opponent in the history of the Premier League.
He played for the final time at Old Trafford on 6 May against Hull City, in which he received three standing ovations: one during a pre-match presentation for him by Sir Bobby Charlton, the second when he came on as a substitute for Phil Jones, and the third for his first touch of the game. He left United after 7 long years of glory, trophies and records and as a true United Legend.
In 2014, Inter Milan announced that Nemanja Vidić would be joining them at the end of his contract in July 2014. He made his debut for the Milan outfit on 30 July 2014, playing against his former team, Manchester United, in the International Champions Cup; he scored in the penalty shoot-out, but Inter lost the match. In his competitive debut, a goalless draw at Torino on 31 August, he conceded a penalty by fouling Fabio Quagliarella and was sent off for dissent after sarcastically applauding the referee in added time.
On 18 September, Vidić was selected man of the match after his performance against Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk where Inter won 1–0 in Kyiv thanks to a goal from Danilo D’Ambrosio. Following Walter Mazzarri’s departure as Inter head coach, the returning Roberto Mancini relegated Nemanja Vidić to the bench in favour of younger defenders Andrea Ranocchia and Juan Jesus. On 11 January 2015, he played his first game in two months in a 3–1 win over Genoa, where he scored his first goal for Inter with a header in the 88th minute.
A string of injuries in Inter’s defence, and good performances from Vidić, made him re-establish himself as a first-team player. On 18 January 2016, his contract with Inter Milan was ended by mutual consent. 11 days later, on 29 January, the defender decided to hang up his boots with immediate effect.
Started as a Yugoslavian youth international, Vidić made his senior debut on 12 October 2002 against Italy in UEFA Euro 2004 qualification. Vidić was part of Serbia and Montenegro’s “Famous Four” defence alongside Mladen Krstajić, Ivica Dragutinović and Goran Gavrančić, that conceded just one goal during the ten 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification matches, setting a new record for the fewest goals conceded in a World Cup Qualifier.
Vidić played a major part in the last qualification game, against Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which Serbia and Montenegro won 1–0 and secured qualification in the 2006 FIFA World Cup; Vidić was given a red card, however, five minutes before the end. Vidić missed out on Serbia and Montenegro’s opening group stage match against the Netherlands through suspension from his previous red card and on 12 June 2006, he injured his left knee ligaments during training, and that ended his chances of playing at the 2006 World Cup.
After the World Cup, Vidić went on to represent independent Serbian national team. He was a regular during 2010 World Cup qualifying when fit, and was instrumental in Serbia finishing top of their group ahead of the likes of France and Romania, with the best defensive record of all the teams participating in the group again. Serbia, however, had less luck at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and came in last place in Group D. In a match against Germany in the Group Stage of the World Cup, Vidić gave away a penalty in the second half while Serbia were leading 1–0.
On 11 October 2011, Vidić missed a decisive penalty against Slovenia in a friendly game. On 24 October 2011, Vidić announced his retirement from the Serbian national team, because of negative comments from fans about his performances in the national shirt.
Life Outside Football and Post Retirement
On 17 July 2006, Vidić married his girlfriend Ana Ivanović, an economics student at the University of Belgrade. The couple have three sons named Luka, Stefan, and Petar.
Described by David Pleat of The Guardian as a “no-nonsense” defender, Vidić has been labelled as a “tough” centre back, who was known for his physical challenges. He reflected that toughness in his personal life as well. He possessed strong mentality during Serbian independence war. The man is considered to be one of the world’s best centre-backs as one of the top three defenders in Premier League era due to his defensive consistency and awareness, as well as his strength, leadership, and ability in the air, which made him a goal threat on set pieces. We wish such a gifted player a very happy birthday and best of luck for his future life.
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