“Good defenders win you things. This lad is really natural and athletic. You need good defenders and that is exactly what this lad is.”
That was Sir Alex Ferguson’s verdict on Manchester United’s signing of Nemanja Vidic back in January 2006. Even the great Red Devils boss surely could not have imagined just how “good” the Serbian would end up being at Old Trafford.
The then 24-year-old was snapped up by the Manchester side for a reported fee of £7m, and he went on to undeniably become one of Ferguson and David Gill’s best value signings for the club.
The powerhouse ended up playing a total of 300 games, which works out to a measly cost of £23.3k per match – the ultimate definition of a bargain buy.
Whilst Vidic was a great servant in his own right, his influence on the pitch was immeasurable. His time at Old Trafford saw him help the team win five Premier League titles (including three in a row between 2007 and 2009), a Champions League and three League Cups too. Not to mention the one FIFA Club World Cup and numerous Community Shields too.
It was no wonder that his partnership with Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the United defence was widely heralded, including by fellow teammate John O’Shea back in October 2007. He said: “It’s a pretty happy camp at the moment, especially with the defensive situation with the clean sheets. Rio and Nemanja are definitely a major factor to it – you cannot ask for two better central defenders in Europe, in my opinion.”
Ferdinand himself paid tribute to his former partner in crime very recently, saying that out of a choice between him and Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk, he would choose his United teammate. In an Instagram Q&A, he said: “Prime van Dijk or prime Vidic? Ooooh, good question. ‘I’ve got to go with Vidic because he was my partner, man. He was my partner. He covered my back and I covered his. That was it.”
A bit of bias perhaps, but there can be no question that Vidic played a huge role in United’s success during his time at the club. He was a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners kind of defender (his 58 yellow cards are a testament to that), and was as solid as a rock. For just £7m he was an absolute steal.