From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.22 :: Jun. 02, 2011
Nemanja Vidic often apologises for his English, even if he has no need.
Although he had a decent grasp of the language when he arrived at Manchester United from Spartak Moscow, a deal announced on Christmas Day in 2005, Vidic liked to use interviews to brush up on the finer points of the mother-tongue of his adopted homeland.
But, ask this proud Serb what it would be like to become the first player from his country to captain a European Cup-winning team since goalkeeper Stevan Stojanovic led his boyhood heroes Red Star Belgrade to penalty shoot-out glory against Marseille in Bari in 1991 and Vidic becomes strangely tongue-tied.
“To get the trophy would be a great thing,” said Vidic. “But to win something like the Champions League as captain is hard to explain. No Serbian had done it since Red Star Belgrade, so it would be a great achievement. If I come to Manchester United, win the European Cup and be remembered as a not bad captain by the time I go home, that would be pretty good.”
In fact, Vidic has already achieved those aims.
Having taken his time to sign a four-year contract extension this summer, there were a few raised eyebrows when Sir Alex Ferguson then took the captaincy away from Gary Neville, ignored the competing claims of Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand, and gave the job to Vidic.
No-one is in any doubt now that Ferguson made the correct call, just as it is clear how much the UEFA Champions League meant to Vidic in his youth, when Serbia were embroiled in all kinds of bitter disputes over the break-up of Yugoslavia.
“I remember Red Star winning it,” he said. “It was 1991 and I was 10. It felt like the whole country watched that game. The same thing happened when they played against Colo-Colo in the World Championship. It was four or five in the morning and I could not sleep because I was scared whether my dad would allow me to watch. They were great memories, for the club and me as a fan, and for the country as a whole.”
The same unity cannot exist in England due to its stability and inter-club battles.
However, at Wembley on May 28, United will certainly be at home, just as they were in 1968. It took the Red Devils more than three decades to emulate the feats of Bobby Charlton and George Best.
That gap reduced to nine years after United won it in 1999.
Now they are ready for a third final in four years, with Vidic knowing the price to be paid for glory this time will be the minimum time for celebration before Ferguson points them towards a new challenge.
“When we won it in Moscow, the scenes afterwards, on and off the pitch, were fantastic,” he said. “But when I spoke to people the following day it seemed like everyone at the club was thinking about next year. You soon learn that is what Manchester United is about.
“You don't get time to celebrate or be sad, you just get pushed for the next game and the next trophy. I just hope we get that one-day celebration again.”
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