With the news that Nemanja Vidic will be out action for Manchester United for at least 8 weeks, his defensive partner Rio Ferdinand has played down fears that United’s results will suffer in his absence, but is there a smidgeon of false confidence from the former England captain?
Nemanja Vidic is not just Manchester United’s captain – he’s their backbone. While Ferdinand is undoubtedly the more technically gifted of the two, Vidic’s presence in their backline provides more solidity, confidence, organization, and dominance than all of the other United defenders combined.
He is, like Chelsea’s John Terry, and City’s Kompany, their heartbeat – thumping away game after game. It’s not just his interceptions, tackles and headers that bags the Reds points – it’s his unequivocal commitment, determination, and sheer brawn that makes the team tick. You could remove practically any other player from the team – even Wayne Rooney at the opposite end – and you would still be facing a strident Manchester United team.
Ferdinand believes his team will cope,
“We have had to deal with a lot of defensive changes for the last couple of years and we are getting used to it now.” He said,
"Jonny Evans came in at Liverpool for Nemanja Vidic and performed very well.”
But I suspect that, despite Ferdinand’s media-savvy public optimism, his manager Sir Alex Ferguson privately understands full well what a void Vidic’s injury leaves in his team, which will be undoubtedly weakened by the Serbian’s absence.
Vidic is Ferguson’s captain for a reason – because he can be the difference between three points and no points. He’s worth his weight in gold for United. And whilst Ferdinand is a great defender, he’s just not cut of the same steel. He’s nowhere near as dominant as Vidic – not aerially, not instinctually, and not in his ability to empower his team mentally with his ‘never say die’ attitude.
United will play at least three crucial Champions League games, and another half a dozen Premier League games, most notably against fellow title contenders Arsenal and Chelsea, without their skipper.
Ferdinand will have to, figuratively, put his money where his mouth is and really make a step up for his club if he intends to prove his claims that Manchester United can cope without Nemanja Vidic. Most importantly, he has to stay fit.