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Vidic's United front masking Real issue

WHEN Nemanja Vidic spoke some time ago about the fact that his wife didn't like the Manchester "lifestyle", Alex Ferguson's complexion must have shaded into the purple zone.

Nothing much has changed in between and when I saw Vidic hit the headlines overnight, pledging his undying loyalty to United, I had to smile.

From the outside looking in, it seemed a matter of certainty that Vidic used his wife as an excuse to deflect attention away from the fact that someone with a bag of money was on the phone making an offer.

It's an ancient excuse, one that was even used in my day and it's right up there alongside a few other hoary old chestnuts like; "I'm going to a new club for Champions League football", or "it's not the money, it's the challenge."


Once I hear anything like that from a player, my instinct tells me that there's an agent not far away, feeding his player lines and not very good ones at that.

Last summer, Vidic modestly admitted that Barcelona and Real Madrid were interested in him and after mentioning the fact that his wife had misgivings about the "lifestyle", told the world he was fully committed to Manchester United until 2012.

He even offered an estimate of the fee involved - no less than £30m. That's a lot of money for a defender, even for a defender who was the most important player for Ferguson over the last few seasons.

There's a little doubt that Manchester United have been reduced by the absence of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez this season, a gap filled in his own inimitable way by Wayne Rooney.

Ferguson gambled and won. Rooney has risen to the task set in front of him and is single-handedly carrying Manchester United for the last month or so.

But he has not been so fortunate with Vidic although the relationship started so well. When he first arrived at Old Trafford, he immediately made an impact because of his commitment and hunger.

Paired with Rio Ferdinand's more subtle skills, Vidic was the battling heart of Ferguson's team and more important than Ronaldo or any other player.

The decline began this time last year. A lot of speculation swirled around Vidic in the transfer window and there were alleged sightings in Spain and Italy.

When he admitted that clubs had been hovering during last summer, he simply confirmed what everyone thought and when he underlined his commitment to Alex Ferguson and Manchester United once again, nobody quite bought it.

And that's the problem for Ferguson and Vidic. Commitment is the very quality that made him such a huge asset to his manager and without it, he's just an ordinary defender.

While Ferdinand looks the part and can throw a nonchalant 40 yard pass in when he feels like it, Vidic is the man you want beside you in the trench when the bullets start flying.

At least he was a few seasons back. Lately, he's been injured a lot and the body language hasn't been good on the odd occasion he's played.

For Ferguson, all such situations are as much an opportunity as a curse and I notice that Vidic is saying that he is now fully fit and ready to play.

Ferguson is a master of man management and if he has managed to make a deal with Vidic that will switch on the talents of his best defender, it could be enough to swing the season for him.

Manchester United's biggest weakness is at the back and for a few months now, Ferguson has been stitching together the best defence he can manage without ever achieving any stability.


If Vidic can focus his mind fully on the job at hand over the next three months and plays the way we know he can, it would be a huge boost at a moment in the fixture calendar when Manchester United must raise their game considerably.

But I have to say, I have major doubts. Once a player's head is turned by offers from abroad, it's very difficult for him to be totally committed.

We saw Ferguson do a similar deal with Ronaldo last year when he agreed to let him go to Real Madrid in return for one more season.

In the end, he didn't get what he wanted from Ronaldo and he didn't even get to spend the money Madrid handed over for his flawed diamond.

Which brings us back to Vidic's wife, Ana and the possibility that her dislike for the Manchester "lifestyle" has impacted on her husband's thinking.

I'm sure her home city of Belgrade is a great place but it gets very cold there in the winter and extremely hot in the summer months.

Of course, I don't know what her lifestyle was like before she arrived in Manchester but I would suggest that it has been helped considerably by the massive wages Nemanja has been banking on a weekly basis.