What has happened to Nemanja Vidic?

Nemanja Vidic

Ok I admit it – there are a few things i’m scared of. Spiders are one, being caught wearing a trilby hat and ghost pets – however I think we can fairly conclude that the sight of Fernando Torres puts our no-nonsense, swashbuckling centre half turn into a nervous wreck. Nemanja Vidic was sent off for the third consecutive match against Liverpool today in the 2-0 defeat at Anfield. Looking back at last year’s fixture at home – our Serbia defender was all on course for a whole host of awards following an impressive season – which included a last minute goal against Sunderland and being part of a 14 match record breaking match run in which United didn’t concede a goal. However, after the Torres goal in which Vidic totally misjudged the flight of the ball – I ask – what has happened to Vidic?

I promise this isn’t a knee jerk reaction to disappointing loss today – we don’t do that here – but ever since that 4-1 defeat, Vidic hasn’t quite been the same player and his performance today backs up the suggestion that he is terrified around Torres. Nervous, hesitant and a barrage of fouls followed throughout the course of the match. Vidic gave away four free kicks today – two of which he was booked for, whilst never looking comfortable against Torres – who was still nursing an injury from the previous week. A far cry from last season when his performances were first class week in week out for most of the season. There was a point when I felt he wouldn’t ever lose a header to an opposing forward.

His performances before that defeat were exceptional – take the 3-0 victory over Chelsea for instance (all statistics are provided by the Guardian Chalkboard. He only gave away one free kick and that was in the Chelsea penalty box following a United corner. His interceptions were 100% and in fact he didn’t even have to make a tackle in the game. He also scored a vital goal on the stroke of half time. A few weeks later against Everton at home he had a 100% tackle ratio – winning all nine challenges he went in for and had an impressive 100% passing range (31 out of 31). He continued to impress with his passing in the next game completing all 22 passes he attempted. Fast forward a few games and in the 2-1 victory over Newcastle United he went in for eight challenges winning seven of them – whilst attempting 48 passes and completing 47 of them, and then came the next game – home to Liverpool.

Some things can’t be accounted for in statistics – such as his hesitance to clear a routine long ball through the middle – but his clearances were all over the place. He went to clear the ball nine times and failed in four of those attempts. He then mis-controlled a ball which dropped into Gerrard’s path. Vidic was then sent off for his attempted challenge on the Liverpool skipper to round off a quite miserable day for any Red. But the most important statistic of all is how this resulted affected the team as a whole rather than just Vidic – did it have any impact at all?

Before the Liverpool game United conceded 12 goals in twenty seven league games (so that is a conceding rate of 0.44 goals per game) – including and after the Liverpool game United conceded another 12 goals – this time in 11 games (which is a conceding rate of 1.09 goals per game). Now statistics aren’t everything (47% of people know that as Homer Simpson once brilliantly stated) as they do not account for injuries (Ferdinand), suspensions (Vidic), the demands of a season (United were at the time going for five trophies) and squad rotation (linked to the last point). However, I would argue that going from 0.44% to 1.09% is quite a drastic shift. United have and (hopefully) will always be known for attack minded football where players are allowed to express themselves – but last season saw a change in emphasis – a change that was most probably aimed at retaining the European Cup, which saw United collect a vast amount of 1-0 wins. This season is no better in terms of goals conceded – twelve in ten games – that 1.2 goals per game) – so what is it? Have the injuries to Vidic, Ferdinand and Van der Sar been the main problems? Or have the opposition improved from last term? Or has Vidic – our best defender last season – never fully recovered from his horror show against Torres?

Like I said – I don’t do or like knee jerk reactions – its something Yolkie and I were talking about earlier in the season. Vidic is a, as described by Sir Alex Ferguson, warrior – he is an old fashioned centre half who gets stuck in and generally wins most of his challenges. The Vidic chant that booms around Old Trafford sums up the Dolph Lundgren in Rocky style feeling we have towards and Serbian. He’s hard, tough and takes no prisoners – the second coming of Jaap Stam. However, those stats don’t lie – before the 4-1 defeat we’d conceded less than a goal every two games – after we are letting in more than a goal a game – and its worse this season. So to conclude – is it a mere coincidence that this statistics highlight our defensive frailties since the defeat? Or has Vidic been scarred by the event that his performances have been below par (looking at European Cup final for one)? This also can have a psychological effect on the rest of team – which could be another reason for the shift. Either way – I believe Vidic is a top European class centre half – not blessed with pace or cultured like Ferdinand – but he is brave and immense in the air. I think today he was nervous about playing against Torres with his nightmare performance in March at the front of his mind – but who wouldn’t be? He is a superb forward – lightning fast, great finisher and has sublime turn of pace. Today was a great opportunity for Vidic to banish those demons – sadly for him and for us – he is going to have to wait until the clocks go forward to have another duel with the Spaniard.

14 Comments on What has happened to Nemanja Vidic?

  1. “Dolph Lundgren in Rocky”? F**k me if you treat him like a gay icon (and a loser), no wonder he’s gone to shyte! 🙂

  2. i think he has been given the “play for us for one more season”promise from fergie,look at ronaldo’s last season at utd performance.

  3. Couldnt disagree with you more mate. Vidic was a collosus on sunday. I agree it shook him up a bit last season in the 4-1 loss but sunday he was back again. He’s a 1 man team at the back – Rio was the villan of the piece. He was all over the place and nemanja was doing near all the work. I thought John Oshea was back to his calamitous best and thats what heaped the pressure on vidic. Evra was caught going forward quite a few times (most notably by benayoun). Near every ball that went into the box vidic dealt with. Then he made the final sacrifice – himself so they didnt score a 2nd (not that i agree with that decision but he put everything into it!)

  4. bang on but to be fair the whole back four should be held to account. evra’s defence which was never stellar but was solid has vanished, o’shea is not a right back and can’t be blamed that much but it should be understood that our fullbacks come forward to support the attack (the look on berba’s face when he back heeled the ball from the 18 yard box to no one yesterday was telling), fergie needs give the daSilva boys a run out in these games or use vets like Gary or Wes.

    Rio, I don’t think was as much at fault for the Torres goal as Vida nevertheless Rio seem genuinely uncomfortable these days for club and country. I don’t think he’s over his back problems and his competitive nature pushes him onto the pitch rather than let Jonny Evans continue to develop.

    It’s just one game and it’s an off game but why do we under perform or just not show up on big games like this or the Champions League final last year. Something is wrong!!!

  5. I think the most important thing here is to call a sped a sped.Rio is no longer doing well.how can somebody tell me that the first goal was not his fault.
    let say the contest was between Vidic and torres, beleive you me , Torres will find it difficult to kick that ball because Vida will be there with him unlike Rio with all his long leggs could not run, he was at Torres back struggling for what, why not strech your leggs to the ball. just like what happen between him and Bellamy in mancity game.
    i don’t like seeing him around untill we are sure that he can do the job.
    he doasn’t want to collect yellow so Vida should be the sacrificial lamb. doing all the risk. who will tell me one good save/stop that Rio did on sunday game that we should be happy for.
    to hail with his style of play this time.
    don’t really want to discause this at all.

  6. vidic wasnt the worst player on that field he did ok winning headers etc ferdinand was worse but it is one game lets see how we bounce back chill out lads its not only these type of games that win titles

  7. Ironically I thought in general Vidic had a good game – most of it Torres was absolutely anonymous, but it’s true in that he misjudged the flight before Rio was caught out, and while the first yellow was harsh the second was probably a straight red (as detailed in the match report this probably gave Marriner a huge sigh of relief because he cocked up so horribly with Carragher).

    So there were two costly errors made in such a high profile game and completely ruined the rest of his good work and these seem to be creeping into most games now.

    I don’t know if it’s complacency or a self confidence issue but he doesn’t seem the same imposing centre half as he did against Chelsea in January for example. Rio too looks out of sorts and perhaps it’s going to take time for their fluidity to return.

    O’Shea and Evra gave performances that didn’t exactly help them out either.

    I totally share the concern about Vidic’s form. I just hope that it is a temporary thing and as I say that he and Rio just need time. Their excellence over 18 months can’t just have disappeared.

    By the way – Drago as a gay icon?? What magazines have you been reading Harry?!

  8. Vidic performs well against the ‘lesser’ teams, but like you said – since that 4-1 thrashing last year, his confidence looks well & truly rocked. I don’t think he will be none to happy in missing out on all those awards you mentioned either.
    The first of the 3 losses – he did ok. The games at Old Trafford & Anfield yesterday, he looked like a wreck. He has zero confidence against Torres & every time he should be in a certain position or ready to make a certain move – he messes up. He is obviously scared stiff of Torres’ speed & agility. But he will recover, even though personally I think he’s gone to Barca next summer.
    As a England fan – I am more worried about Ferdinand. He is a cert for South Africa next year & yet, the likes of Torres – who he will come up against & making him look average. He doesn’t look fit & he should be dropped now. Give Evans a chance alongside Vidic. I think Vidic isn’t too confident around Ferdinand right now either.

  9. Vidic! was immense in that game.

    I cant be bothered to read this – too tired.

    United! was crap! and Liverpool had their souls, behind a wall.

  10. Maybe I was watching Torres too closely but I just thought he was turning all the time when Vidic or Ferdinand should have been closer. He was drawing Vidic out wide and I generally thought he wasn’t closing him down quickly because he was hesitant. Winning headers? Sure he’ll do that all day long. But I thought every time Torres got the ball he looked dangerous – not that he was going to score all the time, but he was direct with his dribbling and Vidic had to foul him a few times.

    I think Vidic is a class act and the post was really there to highlight the alarming goals per game ratio since our record breaking run last February.

  11. The author is right,but luckily United will only encounter Liverpool one more time this year, unless for once, actually makes it in any other competition.

    Torres, after my opinion, is Fergies biggest mistake at OT. Not selling Jaap Stam (that lead to the purchase of a young lad named Rio from Leeds). He (Torres) is in my opinion, clearly the worlds best striker, and as FSW and Torres himself said he was on a 80% day since he barely recovered froma recent injury. This gives you an idea of how much effort Fergie should have put in buying the spanish striker when he was in Atlético. Even though he was a LFC-fan back there too, I bet he would not reject a move to United back then.

    His loyalty now is almost legendary and instead of buying him, Fergie got a little midget traitor from West Ham on loan, that´s right, you guessed it; Carlos “The Midget” Tevez.

    He never should let the opportunity of buying Torres pass him by. Understandibly Fergie would never say that not buying Torres was his biggest mistake in charge of United when he (Torres) now is in Liverpool. But that is my opinion.

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