Ferguson hails Vidic, bemoans market
Sir Alex Ferguson cannot remember whether Manchester United paid for Nemanja Vidic in pounds or Euros. Either way, it was seven million well spent.
Vidic has now completed five years at Old Trafford, during which time he has confirmed his status as one of the best central defenders in the world. His performance at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend was a masterclass in dogged determination, one of the chief reasons why a ten-man United outfit were able to head home still top of the table and with their unbeaten Premier League record still intact.
Little wonder Ferguson handed Vidic the captaincy at the start of the season. The Serbian is one of the few automatic choices at United these days. And when Ferguson eventually calls time on his staggering spell as manager, Vidic's signing will go down as one of his best bits of business.
"Nemanja is a warrior," said Ferguson. "He is a natural defender. He loves it. That is the great thing about him. There have been a few defenders like him over the years. When the ball comes into the penalty box, the one player you know wants to get it cleared is Nemanja. Last Sunday he was so powerful and positive in everything he went for. He has been a great signing. I can't remember what we paid for him but whatever it was, it was cheap."
How much Ferguson would have to pay on the open market for someone like Vidic now does not bear thinking about. The United manager has repeatedly stressed that he sees no value in the market, one of the reasons he has been so reluctant to make any massive purchases since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in 2009.
That is highly unlikely to change during the current transfer window, which is notable so far for the £27million capture of Edin Dzeko by Manchester City and the shock move of Darren Bent from Sunderland to Aston Villa for a sum that could end up only three million less.
"You can't understand the market. You will never understand it nowadays," said Ferguson. "It is two different thought processes. A club like Villa is in a precarious position in the league. They are trying to protect that and have gone for broke in signing Darren Bent, who Gerard Houllier is hoping will open the door in terms of regular goalscoring and get them away from the bottom of the league. Manchester City don't need to be desperate. They have a good squad and they are adding to it."
It means Ferguson will probably be sticking with the men he already has available as he hits the time where his side need to kick on. They will do so against Birmingham City without Brazilian full-back Rafael, who at least will not miss any further games after being fined £8,000 and warned about his future conduct following his remonstrations at referee Mike Dean after being dismissed at Tottenham.
It gives Ferguson a selection dilemma to ponder, with Rafael's twin brother Fabio, John O'Shea and Wes Brown all in contention to fill the vacancy. It would be a major shock if Birmingham were to become only the second team to take points off United at Old Trafford this season. The Blues have made nine visits since Frank Worthington scored their last goal at the stadium in 1981 and you have to go back three more years to find their most recent victory.
Still, in goalkeeper Ben Foster, Birmingham will have someone with additional motivation to keep United at bay. At the start of last season, Ferguson claimed Foster would go to the FIFA World Cup™ as England's No1 goalkeeper. As it turned out, the former United man did not even make the plane to South Africa, a victim of Edwin van der Sar's outstanding form and his own high-profile blunders against Manchester City and Sunderland that effectively ended his Red Devils career.
"Goalkeepers make mistakes which are highlighted more than any other player," said Ferguson. "Ben, he felt it. He was disappointed with himself. If he had been playing every week it would soon have been erased from his game. But he wasn't doing that with us simply because of a man called Van der Sar. That was his problem."