Vidic feared he made a mistake joining United
Serbian defender speaks of difficulties of playing in Premier League in early days and why Ryan Giggs must stay at Old Trafford.
If Patrice Evra follows Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand by announcing the end of his Manchester United career this week, incoming manager Louis van Gaal will have to fill a chasm in the team’s back four.
Between them, Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand have made 1,134 appearances for United, with the highpoint of their defensive alliance coming in Moscow six years ago, when a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in the Luzhniki Stadium secured the club’s third European Cup.
At its peak, with Gary Neville or Wes Brown occupying the right-back position, the back four which contained Evra, Ferdinand and Vidic was the best in Europe, with the Vidic-Ferdinand axis proving to be arguably the most formidable of the Premier League era.
For Vidic and Evra, however, their shared difficulties at the beginning of their Old Trafford careers formed a bond between the pair which the Serbian discussed during our conversation last week.
Having arrived from Spartak Moscow and Monaco respectively during the January transfer window in 2006, both Vidic and Evra struggled to impress during the first six months, with Vidic admitting that the pair feared they had made huge mistakes signing for United.
“We talked about it together,” Vidic said. “We spoke many times about this.
“Sometimes I like to remember how hard it was for us in the beginning. You remember what you have done here and now I am playing every week.
“For us, the league was much quicker, the players were much stronger and in the first few weeks I found that really hard.
“I remember Patrice saying ‘can we succeed here? Maybe it is better for us to go back to the places we were at before.’
“But afterwards, we start training harder and we got used to it.”
When Vidic revealed the extent of the turbulence which buffeted and rocked United during the 51-game reign of former manager David Moyes, the departing captain took no pleasure in reliving the final season of his career at the club.
Throughout the 55-minute interview, the 32 year-old dealt with every attempt to persuade him to directly criticise Moyes as though he would deal with a high ball into the penalty area - he took it in his stride and swatted it away.
The tone of frustration was there, but the over-riding sentiment from Vidic was one of respect, both for Moyes and United as a club, and he was determined to speak honestly, but with fairness.
When asked whether he would have stayed at United had he known Moyes would be sacked, Vidic took time to consider his answer, before admitting, "I know you would like me to say the exact thing but I cannot."
Vidic’s desire was to leave United for Inter Milan without dismantling a man’s reputation as his final act, but his admission that there were arguments among team-mates and that the Sir Alex Ferguson way, rather than the Moyes blueprint, was what the players yearned for said enough.
But when he looks back on his United career, Vidic insists that it will be with positive memories rather than negative thoughts.
“When I came here, I was impressed by the structure of the club and going into the dressing room and seeing the players,” Vidic said.
“But then you would see that Ronaldo was not there, Giggsy was not there, Rio was not there, the same with Saha and Silvestre.
“I would think, where have these guys gone, why are they not in the dressing room?
“Maybe they take a shower and go home, because there is nobody there.
“It happened for a week, two weeks, and after two months, I am wondering where the guys have gone.
“I couldn’t speak English that good, so I maybe didn’t understand things, but then I find them in the gym, some people stretching, Ronaldo outside doing his step overs.
“Some are practising other things, working at it. It is the work ethic and this club must maintain this kind of thing.
“To play for so long at this club, the work ethic and mentality of the players is something you notice.
“Players don’t say they are too tired. This club has good examples and it is why it is important people like Giggs stay, so people can see the players, how they maintain their body.
“It was a big influence on me and it made a change to my career and my life. My life is more professional now and that is what I learn from this club.”