Much has already been said about the influence of Ryan Giggs from the sidelines bringing out the best in Manchester United’s attackers, but while Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata ran riot, it was Nemanja Vidic who stood out as the Squawka man of the match against Norwich City.
The Serbian, who will leave the club in the summer for a new start in Serie A with Inter, chalked up a Performance Score of 110 thanks to his almost faultless display at back, dominating the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel and ensuring David de Gea was well protected.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Vidic made 19 clearances to fire Norwich's often one-dimensional deliveries back up field or out of play. By contrast, his defensive partner Rio Ferdinand made only seven, with United's captain's tally of defensive actions totalling up to 24, making him by far his side's most involved defender. With 11 defensive actions, Patrice Evra was a distant second.
Vidic wasn't just content to sit back and repel what was sent at him either. With 19 of those actions accounted for by his clearances, the rest came from the five interceptions made by the Serbian as he stepped ahead of De Gea's area to snuff out opposition attacks.
Combined with his 90% pass accuracy rate from 44 successful passes, he looked indomitable at the back while also keeping his team-mates in control of the ball.
As expected, he also excelled in the air, winning all 12 of the headers he went in for to ensure aerial superiority for United at the back. In contrast, Ferdinand only took part in one aerial duel throughout the 90 minutes. To his right, Phil Jones also only had a single header to his name.
With so much already being spun from Giggs' first turn in the dug-out at Old Trafford, it seems a bit early to hail his impact as the reason for Vidic and his team's performance, yet the Serbian and his defensive partners did look very settled, confident and comfortable under the Welshman's watchful eye.
United's interim manager hardly had time to drill his defence and is likely to have told his back four to largely stick to what they know and play their natural way, which coming after the troubled reign of David Moyes may well have been exactly what they wanted to hear.
Equally, such an experienced pairing of Ferdinand and Vidic can largely be trusted to organise themselves and get on with the task at hand, especially against the league's worst away side this season.
With his Serbian captain wanting to leave the club on a high, Giggs would be wise to make him the focal point of his defence for the remaining games this season if he wants to enjoy the momentum of positivity and good results that could yet deliver him the managerial post on a full-time basis.
Whether that would be good for the club as a whole, rather than a less sentimental and logical appointment based on title-winning and European experience, is another matter, but if Vidic continues to perform as he did against Norwich, United could well be unbeatable from now and until the end of the season.
Could his final act as captain be to select the club's new manager by proxy?
- Sports & Recreation
- Nemanja Vidic
- Ryan Giggs
- Manchester United
- Rio Ferdinand
- David de Gea