Bilyaletdinov 19, Gosling 76, Rodwell 90
MANCHESTER UNITED 1
Nemanja Vidic was named in the Manchester United first team squad for the first time in 2010 for the trip to Goodison Park but it was on the pitch where the influence of the Serbian was again missed. The defeat to David Moyes’ side was the sixth suffered by United this season and was the second time they have conceded three goals away from home. Both times they were without Vidic and his first choice partner Rio Ferdinand.
Indeed with both having been absent for large portions of the season United have at times looked shaky but this was seemingly behind them with some strong performances from the back four in the tough recent away encounters at the Emirates and Villa Park. Following the performances of Jonny Evans since his return from his own spell on the sidelines it has led many to consider whether United can in fact cope without the Serbian – providing his wife with her reported wish to leave Manchester for sunnier climes. Many may draw comparisons with the departure of Jaap Stam as the Dutchman was deemed surplus to requirements due to a perceived loss of pace with his manager feeling he would be able to get the best price for a player seemingly on the decline. Looking at Vidic, when involved this season he has not been at his formidable best, with issues behind the scenes – the club often cited as the reason for this. Many believe his self removal from the squad to face Leeds in the FA Cup was the culmination of his off-field problems.
What can be taken from the Everton game is a clear indication that United are not strong enough to cope with a complete loss of Vidic as Evans and Wes Brown were bullied for the entire encounter by former United man Luis Saha. Evans is an undoubted talent but all too often he was guilty of making the wrong decision when faced with the strength and pace of Saha. For the first goal he over committed himself in the air going for a ball he was unlikely to win and was guilty of diving in too early on numerous occasions when holding up the striker would have been the preferred option. It could be argued that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side miss Ferdinand more than Vidic as his organisation and pace is a key ingredient to United’s back four but without Vidic the grit and determination to win the physical battle is lost. Wes Brown is an able deputy but his advanced years, injury problems and occasional lapses of concentration will mean that he always plays the role of understudy and so it is to Evans that Sir Alex will look to as a replacement for Vidic. On the evidence of his performance against Saha and his lack of experience exposed in midweek against Milan it is clear that Evans has a long way to go before he can emulate the value for Manchester United of their Serbian centre-half.
With the selection of Vidic in the squad for the Everton match United fans will be hoping that this signals the end of his injury problems and his perceived issues with the club. Therefore one of their prized assets can take his place in the starting XI for the remainder of the season as they now look to face an uphill battle to retain their Premier League crown.