According to some, Manchester United have little chance of beating Barcelona in Saturday’s Champions League Final. Certain pundits have gone as far as suggesting that if the Catalan side turn up and play to the best of their ability, United have no chance. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have been written off all season and will be viewing these latest statements simply as more ammunition to prove the doubters wrong.
The manager himself knows exactly his side’s qualities. Whether that is an ability to pack the midfield, to cut open sides with free-flowing football or to find a goal out of nothing in the dying minutes of the game. It is this passion and never-say-die attitude which could well see them triumphant at Wembley and no other player embodies this as much as the man who will lift the trophy if successful. Nemanja Vidic has been talismanic in his debut season with the captain’s armband at Old Trafford, indeed making it look like a job he was born to do.
Packing the midfield may have been cited by many as the way United can defeat Barcelona, but for some an even more important area of the pitch is the centre of the Red Devils’ defence. The Premier League’s player of the season has staked his claim for the world’s best in his position and when partnered alongside Rio Ferdinand they undoubtedly form the best defensive partnership anywhere in world football. Barcelona may have unbelievable attacking options and their movement and passing game is second to none, but those attacking players will not have come up against a defensive partnership as good as Vidic and Ferdinand at any time this season.
That said; both players will have to be at their very best, which they were not the last time the two sides met in 2009. Vidic himself clearly has old scores to settle following the ease with which Samuel Eto’o brushed past him for the opening goal. It is unlikely anyone will be getting the better of him with such ease in this encounter. Looking at Barca’s attacking play you have to start with Lionel Messi and the second goal in the semi-final first leg. The way the Argentine slalomed through the Madrid back four was sublime, but in the opinion of this writer it would be extremely difficult to replicate this against Vidic. The Serbian may not be able to win the ball fairly, even so Messi would be unlikely to travel that distance without being felled. Just look at Vidic’s challenge last Sunday when DJ Campbell evaded him.
Vidic may appear a warrior, good in the air and good in the tackle, but his positional play is a key part of his game which often is not appreciated as much as it should be. Rarely is he caught out of position and alongside a great reader of the game like Ferdinand this makes them a real imposing force. This will surely be put to the test against Barca, but judging him on the season he has just had it would be difficult to bet against him coming out on top.
United may have been written off already. For their Serbian defender there would be no greater pleasure than once again proving the critics wrong and putting old demons behind him.