Unless Manchester United offer Nemanja Vidic new deal rumours will not go away
19 August 2009 02:05
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The 27-year-old has become a cult figure on the Stretford End after overcoming a jittery first six months at United to carve out a reputation as one of Europe's leading centre-halves.
Vidic's partnership with Rio Ferdinand has been the rock on which United's recent success was built and, in tandem, the pair have often proved an unbreakable barrier.
But the noises surrounding Vidic since the turn of the year have largely surrounded his wife's inability to settle in Manchester, how the player himself hankers for a move to the continent and how both AC Milan and Barcelona would be prepared to take the former Spartak Moscow defender off United's hands.
Each time the words 'Vidic' and 'unsettled' have been paired together, a swift denial has emanated from the player's camp. Just this week, quotes attributed to his agent claiming that Vidic wants to move to Barcelona were denied within hours.
But the denial came with the tell-tale comment from Vidic's representative, Paolo Fabbri, that "if Barcelona do make an offer for him, then it is up to United to make a decision."Hardly a categorical statement of Vidic's desire to remain at Old Trafford for the duration of his contract, which is due to expire in 2012.
Vidic himself has spoken of his determination to stay at United, but it is undeniable that his position at the club is no longer as assured as it was just six months ago and perhaps the leaks about Barcelona and Milan are merely a tactic aimed at smoking out Sir Alex Ferguson's intentions.
If Ferguson rates Vidic as highly as he claims publicly, then a lucrative new contract will surely be thrashed out. If not, then now is the time to put out some feelers and generate enough interest in the player to ensure that he can command a top salary at one of Europe's leading clubs next summer.
Vidic must address three problems before re-establishing himself as United's defensive lynchpin - namely Jonny Evans, injuries and Fernando Torres.
There remains a perception that Vidic has yet to reproduce his best form since suffering a mauling at the hands of Torres during Liverpool's 4-1 victory at Old Trafford last March. Vidic lost his aura of invincibility as Torres destroyed him for pace and won the aerial battle on a dark day for United.
The injuries that have come with his fiercely committed approach to the game have also become a concern.
An ankle injury suffered while on international duty in June forced Vidic out of United's pre-season tour of the Far East and a subsequent calf injury has ensured that he remains sidelined.
And then there is Evans. The Northern Irishman has emerged as a genuine rival for the centre-half position in recent months.
Home-grown, good in the air and composed on the ball, Evans is blessed with the strengths of both Vidic and Ferdinand, despite lacking the experience and trophy winning track record of his team-mates.
Ferguson has huge faith in Evans's ability and the United manager is also excited by the emergence of Craig Cathcart, another Northern Irish youngster, who excelled at centre-half during his appearance against Boca Juniors in the Audi Cup last month.
Twelve months ago, none of the above was an issue for Vidic. He was as close to an 'untouchable' as you get at Old Trafford.
That is no longer the case and, unless United come up with a new deal, the rumours about Barcelona and Milan will not go away.