Why Vidic and Ferdinand were United's best ever defensive partnership
Manchester United have had some great defensive partnerships over the years in the Premier League, but Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have to be the best the club has ever had, in terms of compatibility and trophies won. This pair could possibly lay claim to being United's two greatest central defenders ever.
Back in the days where Manchester United were actually successful before Sir Alex retired (those days seem like a long time ago now), Vidic and Ferdinand were the platform upon which Sir Alex's final golden period (2006-13) was built upon.
Indeed, after Vidic signed for the club in January 2006 and had 6 months to get used to the intricacies of the English game, he and Ferdinand were paired together on a regular basis at the start of the 06/07 season and this coincided with the club finally became successful again after 3 seasons without the Premier League trophy.
Between 2006 and 2013, with Ferdinand and Vidic anchoring the centre of United's defence, they won 5 Premier League titles in 7 seasons among a whole host of other trophies. The only major trophies they didn't win in this time period were the FA Cup and Europa League (UEFA Cup).
Part of what made the pair so good was how compatible their strengths and playing styles were.
Ferdinand was the more mobile of the pair and had excellent ball-playing skills (so much so that Sir Alex even trialed playing him in the centre of midfield) whilst Vidic complemented Ferdinand's more subtle style with a tougher, physical approach which often intimidated opponents, and helped United navigate tough trips away to physically imposing teams like Stoke and Bolton.
They became the first names on the teamsheet for United throughout this period, along with Patrice Evra. The Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra defensive axis served United extraordinarily well throughout Sir Alex Ferguson's time at the club. With Vidic and Ferdinand shoring up United's backline, this gave freedom for the club's wealth of attacking players to wreak havoc among the opposition defence.
Though the pair got on well off the field, they were united on it by a sheer desire to win at all costs.
Sir Alex always said that attitude was important in determining success as ability. Put simply, they were both born winners, a quality which Fergie looked for so he could handpick players to assemble another great title-winning side. This resilience and passion helped them to operate as a productive partnership at the top of their game for 7 years, even when both were well into their thirties.
Ferdinand's pace made up for Vidic's shortcomings in that area, which could be brutally exposed at times by strikers with pace (Fernando Torres etc.). Nevertheless, it was Rio getting older and sustaining more injuries which ultimately resulted in the end of this partnership with 2013-14 highlighting their weaknesses.
Both left the club for pastures new in the summer of 2014- Ferdinand to QPR and Vidic to Inter Milan. Their careers somewhat fizzled out after United- with Ferdinand only spending the solitary season at QPR before retirement.
Upon their departure from United, the pair's golden days were long behind them, rather like the current United side who operate in the shadow of the glories of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, 5 years on from his retirement from United.