Vidic: We we were fighting with ourselves, not Moyes
Exclusive: Nemanja Vidic says tension was high in the Manchester United dressing room during a troubled season under David Moyes
Published 14/05/2014 | 02:30
As Nemanja Vidic reflected on his final season at Manchester United, the glory he had become accustomed to had been washed away by pain, frustration and memories of team-mates turning on each other as the club lurched into crisis under David Moyes.
"We argued amongst ourselves," Vidic said. "This year more than any other, because when you have bad times, people show they care. We are still friends, but we were arguing to get better. We wanted to improve.
"We could say those things to each other because we have been together for so long, but it hurt. If you didn't argue, it would not be right. We had some hard moments in the dressing-room between ourselves."
Vidic has just collected his boots from United's Carrington training ground, while some of his team-mates have returned their club Chevrolets as they prepare for life away from Old Trafford.
With Vidic leaving for a two-year contract at Inter Milan, Rio Ferdinand following him out of the exit door and Patrice Evra also set to end his association with the club, an era is coming to a close at United.
For it to end as it has done, with United due to appoint a second new manager in 12 months after finishing seventh in the Premier League, there is obvious anguish felt by Vidic, the club captain for the past four years.
But with Moyes paying the ultimate price for failure by losing his job as manager last month, Vidic believes the Scot suffered for attempting to impose his personality on a club who already had a fierce identity.
"There was a transition," Vidic said. "You get someone who sees football in a different way and he will want to put his stamp on the team and the way he wants to play.
"Ryan (Giggs) shares the same ideas as Alex Ferguson and his was a more similar approach to the one we had with Alex. The players are more used to it and felt more comfortable with it.
"I am not saying that the David Moyes way was bad, but these players feel more comfortable playing a certain way of football.
"You have to respect where you are and what you represent, though, and there is no point speaking about someone who was here, who everyone knows lost his job because he did not succeed in doing what he wanted to achieve.
"The best answer I can say is that he (Moyes) tried really hard, he was professional. He was really committed to the job and desperately wanted to do well. But unfortunately, it didn't happen and we are all sad.
"Sometimes you have bad times and you question yourself, of course, but we never did anything to question the manager at all. We questioned ourselves more."
Having declared Vidic to be the "best defender I have ever worked with" last September, suggesting that a new contract for the centre-half would be a formality, Moyes was either unable or unwilling to sanction the new deal which would have secured the player's services beyond the end of the season. The two men were not close, but Vidic insists that any "issues" between them were aired face-to-face.
"All problems I have had in my life, I have sorted out personally with the manager," Vidic said. "Any issues, we have sorted it out face-to-face because everything from me I will say it to someone looking into their eyes.
"When you work with someone every day, sometimes you are not happy with someone for what they have done. Sometimes you have issues over certain things. It is normal. So you talk to the manager.
"You are a senior player, someone who has been there and done it and you are trying to help the manager. Sometimes you need to have honest conversations. We had them.
"Look, we are human beings. We do not agree with things all the time, but you have to respect the manager, you have to respect your boss. He is the one who is responsible.
"What kind of influence would I have on my manager if I said: 'You should play these tactics?' He is the one who is responsible for those tactics and tomorrow he will lose his job if I say: 'You have to play in a different way.'"
When Moyes was dismissed last month, following the 2-0 defeat at Everton which confirmed United's inability to secure Champions League qualification, it was little surprise to those close to the club.
During Moyes's 51 games in charge, United had stumbled from one crisis to another, with humiliating defeats – many of which were endured by Vidic – becoming an almost fortnightly occurrence.
"It has been hard," Vidic said. "We thought it might be difficult to win the title this year, but we still thought we would challenge for the trophies.
"We ended up losing the chance to win the title very early, though, and then we lost the chance to win the cups as well. We are used to fighting until the last day of the season for the title.
"That has happened for the last seven years and this year was the first year we have not done that, so it is hard to cope.
"Why did it happen? It is hard to say now. You cannot point the finger at something and say this is why, or at someone and say it was their fault.
"All of us have to take responsibility, but we have to accept that it did not work for us. We did not manage to keep the same standards of playing that we had under Alex.
"I don't want to point at any one thing and say he should have stayed or that person might have come, or what if it had been someone else. If, if, if. That has passed.
"Everyone has their own ideas and their own vision. It is hard to judge on why they didn't do this or that. You should always judge on what they actually did do."
There was, however, confusion generated by tactics and team selection, with players used out of position or not selected at all.
"Sometimes you have players playing on the wing and if it is a midfield player, he might not be able to perform," Vidic said. "You need time to adapt to a certain style and we didn't adapt quickly enough. After the results started to be a bit bad, everyone started to get more nervous, then we lost confidence. That is why it was going wrong, and it rolls up and you can't stop it.
"After six games, we were already six or seven points behind the other teams. Maybe if we had easier games to play we would have got the confidence.
"If you start thinking about it now, it was not easy for us from the first day. We had Liverpool away, Manchester City away. We lost those matches, then people start questioning the manager, start questioning the players and the pressure builds up.
"It is not a question you can answer easily. Everything did not happen in one week. You can't say this or that happened.
"In the cycle of one year, there are a lot of things. But when we lost the chance to win the title, we knew this season wasn't working and this season was lost.
"When I thought we had lost our chance to win the title, we were also out of the cups. Then you say 'Wow, this is not working well'.
"I believe if we had finished fourth and got a Champions League place, it would have been more acceptable for everyone. But it just went worse and worse."
As Moyes began to resemble a man fighting fires all around him, stories emerged of senior players losing faith in his methods and others wanting to leave.
And there was another story, seemingly nonsensical, that Moyes had taken Vidic and Ferdinand aside in training to tell them how to defend like Phil Jagielka, the centre-half he turned into an England player at Everton.
When asked whether that episode had actually taken place, Vidic was diplomatically non-committal.
"It doesn't matter. Listen, what happens between the players and us stays between the players and us. I am not going to speak about what has happened in my house. You have to understand the person I am. I am the captain. The captain has to be the captain. He has to respect the club, the manager has to respect the club as well.
"All of us have to understand we are at a club with a big tradition and if you have a problem, this club always will try to keep them in-house.
"All problems are solvable. Either you sort them in a nice way or..."
Vidic's departure will undoubtedly be a blow to United and incoming manager Louis van Gaal, with Ferdinand's exit breaking up arguably the best defensive pairing during the Premier League era.
"I have played with some great players, but Rio deserves a special mention because he has been my partner and the best I have ever played with," Vidic said.
The question among the supporters, however, is whether Vidic would have remained at the club had he known the Moyes era would be cut short before the summer.
"It is not an easy question to answer," Vidic says.
So that is a 'yes,' then?
"It is not a yes," Vidic replied. "I am trying to answer it properly.
"Sometimes you don't make a decision instantly, especially one like this.
"You have to think about it. Is it the right thing to do? Sometimes there are many reasons.
"If I am going to do something, I ask myself why. If there are more than two reasons to do it, I think it is time to change.
"Sometimes these decisions you make are because of certain circumstances. You don't make a decision like that all of a sudden.
"I know you would like me to say the exact thing but I cannot. The best way for me to say it is that sometimes you make decisions because of circumstances.
"I have to say, it is not easy to say certain things. You have a responsibility for what you are and who you represent. I have been with this club for so many years and I have been the captain for the last few.
Even in a family, if you have issues and conversations, sometimes they have to stay within the family.
"At the end of the day, if you have an issue with someone, especially when you care and you have had so many great times, you do it in a way that is suitable to the club. It has happened that way."
As Vidic departs, however, he insists he is leaving behind a club with a future as bright as their past.
"I think now it is a happier place because change is coming again and everything is going to be new. The club has to believe that.
"You feel that atmosphere. You start from there and try to be strong again. You want to see the lights for the next season. You are looking for new ideas and a new mentality because this has gone. It is like resetting a computer and starting again." (© Daily Telegraph, London)