Some fans may feel that the goals of Wayne Rooney or the attacking impetus of Paul Scholes will be the most essential aspects to Manchester United trying to regain the Premier League crown next season. I beg to differ.
Every successful team has a player who embodies the club, who acts as the heart, pumping footballing blood through the veins of the team. The captain fantastic. Manchester City have Vincent Kompany, Chelsea have John Terry, Liverpool have Steven Gerrard and Arsenal have (currently) Robin van Persie. Manchester United have Nemanja Vidic.
Last season was filled with plenty of disappointment but the humiliation of being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League away at FC Basel was, for me, superseded by the season ending injury to Nemanja Vidic in the same game. As soon as you saw his face, you knew it was a bad one. Although Evans was certainly an admirable replacement and rightfully earned his plaudits, he didn’t fully replace Vidic.
The Serbinator brings more to the United team than simply being a fantastic defender. His leadership skills, the fear he strikes into opponents, an innate ability to organise and an unrelenting desire to win all characterise what Nemanja means to the make-up of the squad. Bringing in David de Gea meant that the need for a presence in defence was even more necessary and the combination of Evans and Ferdinand, despite striking quite a decent defensive partnership together, did little to instil this.
Our weakest area last season was without doubt our inability to defend set pieces. Newcastle away stands prominent in the memory. For all the height we had in our defence, the strength simply wasn’t there. Newcastle lumped the ball forward and won every aerial battle – we were lambs for the 3-0 slaughter. This would not have happened had Vidic been playing. Never one to back down from a scrap, just having the physical presence of him would of made Newcastle think twice before knocking it in the air.
You only have to look across to the blue side of Manchester to see how great an impact a true leader can have. Regardless of the team he plays for, Vincent Kompany is pure class and his passion is enough to inspire even the most lifelong armchair fans into action.
Manchester City have done well to tie him down on a new year six year deal because he is, in my opinion, their most important player.
The unfortunately prime example of Kompany’s passion indeed came in the title decider at the Etihad after he scored the only goal of the game.
His celebration saw him reel away towards the fans with a primal, animalistic and verging on the demonic look in his eyes. It was pure, utter passion for the game. It was this bite that United lacked last season.
Normally the aggressors, we found ourselves on the back foot a lot of times last season. We were pushed and pulled around on many occasions – Norwich away, Wigan away, Blackburn at home, to name but a few. The return of Nemanja would quickly quash the pussyfooting and re-introduce the fear that used to strike teams when facing us, something I felt we lost last season.
Eyes may be on the twinkle toed Shinji Kagawa or the potential arrival of other new players but for me, the cliché of a returning player feeling like a new signing could not be more true.