Manchester’s United fans had their worst nightmare confirmed when Inter Milan released a statement saying that they have secured Nemanja Vidic for next season on a free transfer from the English champions. Now David Moyes has a big void to fill in the already visibly weak and ageing United side in the absence of the big Serb in his team. Vidic in his prime, was arguably the best defender in the world and has been an invaluable player to Manchester United’s success since joining in the winter 2006 transfer window for £7m from Russian club Spartak Moscow. Nemanja Vidic is the pinnacle of the no-nonsense ruthless defender and possesses all the qualities you’d want in a good centre-half; good tall stature, tough, good in the air and tactically aware. Replacing your team captain is always a hard thing to do and for Moyes, this has to be done properly after more than a disappointing debut season by the Scotsman. I have devised a 4 man shortlist that I feel could potentially take Vidic’s place in the hub of the defence and act like the backbone in United’s back four.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Market Value: £23m
Mats Hummels hasn’t had the best of seasons so far and neither have Borussia Dortmund although they’re on their way to recovery as Bayern Munich continue their quite frankly, stupidly good domestic season and have all but wrapped up the Bundesliga race in March, currently a huge 20 points ahead of 2nd placed BVB and with an amazing goal difference of 56 (Scored 66 goals, conceded 10 goals). Hummels would be a good replacement for the departing Vidic as he is quick,strong,commanding as well as being 6’4 which is two inches taller than Vidic and is also great in the air. Like Vidic, the German has had quite a few injuries and is very injury prone, having only just returned from his 4th injury of this season. Another reason he would be a good replacement is the fact that he has plenty of Champions League experience, and played an important role in Dortmund’s CL run last year, in which they went all the way to the final before losing 2-1 to bitter rivals Bayern Munich.
Mats Hummels’ play style is very Viidic-like, his passing is very good as well as his tackling, making an average of 2.5 tackles a game and is only dribbled against once in 15 games in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Hummels is an indirect set-peice threat and is also a versatile player, being able to play at centre-back at either side and can also be deployed as a defensive midfielder and he could probably get away of playing as a full-back as his crosses and passing is second to none. Currently valued at €26m (£23m) by Borussua Dortmund and is a relatively expensive replacement but with teams like FC Barcelona and Chelsea looking in to buy the German international, United will have to splash the cash in order to entice Mats Hummels to the Theatre of dreams.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Market Value: £17.5m
Mats Hummels’ team mate Neven Subotic is also someone who I have shortlisted although he is currently injured and is out until around mid May and even though he did sign a contract extension with last season’s Champions League finalists, I feel after nearly 6 years in Germany, he would want a change of scenery. He also said in an interview that if he was to leave Dortmund, he would to one of England’s top clubs. Regardless of their current form, Manchester United are still a big club in England and indeed the world. Subotic has played with Vidic in the Serbian national team for a number of year until the United man’s retirement from International football in 2011 and he possesses the same Serbian mentality of giving it your all and being very aggressive in defending and in general play. Neven like Hummels, is 6’4 and is very good at heading and he also has a alot of European experience and his goal line clearance in last year’s Champions League was vital for Dortmund’s chances to win but ultimately they lost despite a good performance.
Neven Subotic’s style of play is very commanding and he isn’t afraid to voice his opinion to his team mates, like Nejmanja Vidic and this often spurs the team to perform better, something that United have needed this season even with Vidic in the back line. He is valued at around £17.5m and could be a steal for the price for such a good and proven centre back. Subotic is still young, the best side of 25 and should he join, he could serve Manchester United for a long time and has the qualities to become a club captain as he already captain of the Serbia national team.
Ezequiel Garay. The man who United were meant to get in 2010. Four years and a manager later Manchester United are still chasing the centre back and with good reason. He has been the backbone in the ever-changing Benfica team and the key to their success. At 27, I’m sure he will be looking to coming back into main Europe as he is technically in the ‘prime ages’ of his career and having played in La Liga for a couple of years with Racing Santander and Real Madrid, he isn’t short of good European experience. Garay is shorter than Hummels and Subotic at 6’2, the same as Vidic and has great heading capabilities. Garay is also a key player in the Argentina national team and was often is the player that make the team tick, apart from the obvious Leo Messi but as a whole team, Ezequiel is a commander and a good one at that.
Garay is a rock in defence and like a rock he is quite slow off the mark. Not the biggest necessity as a centre back as they often need pace when they make a mistake or when they are the last man and are chasing down an attacker but Garay hardly makes mistakes and when he does he often recovers well. That brings me to another good part of his play, his decision-making and his tactical awareness. Much like Vidic, he is often one step ahead of the attacker and pretty much how and when a player will try to get past him and they are often unsuccessful as he has only been dribbled past 0.3 times, which is an amazing stat for a defender to have. He is valued at £17.5m but since Manchester United have been trying to get him for such a long time, Benfica may hold out for a premium in order to maximise profit on Garay.
Since Joining Porto in 2011, Mangala has rapidly become one of the best young centre backs in the world and has recently broken into the France national team and in the January transfer window was linked with a whole host of big European clubs such as AS Monaco, Manchester City and Manchester United. Mangala has been one of Porto’s star players in recent years and has been an important part of Porto’s league success, helping the team to two back to back league titles in Liga Portuguesa. The Frenchman has a good relationship with fellow Porto centre back Maicon, having only conceded 16 goals when playing together at centre back. Like Vidic, Mangala is 6’2 and has very good heading accuracy and power behind his headers and gets a majority of his headers on target or in the back of the net. Mangala also has had a dabble in the Champions League and would love to into one of the big European clubs and prove his credentials as a defender in the biggest competition of them all.
Even though Mangala is still at the tender age of 23 which is considered baby years in defender terms, he still has a great understanding of the game and knows how to act in a 1v1 situation and conducts himself quite well when caught off guard. One of his biggest strengths apart from his heading is his speed. You could mistake Mangala for a wingback or midfielder and I wouldn’t blame you. He is very quick and normally catches whatever he is chasing, whether it is an attacker or a loose ball, quite the opposite of his Benfica counterpart Garay. Eliaquim Mangala is a very good player and should command a good price, but the £42m release clause in his contract does raise a few eyebrows as in the transfer window, even the money splashing Manchester City were unwilling to dish out that kind of money to lure the defender to Manchester, although the red side of Manchester desperately needs new players and with David Moyes under pressure, he may well have to pay that sort of money to win over the Frenchman and the more than agitated Manchester United fans.
I think either of these players would make great replacements for Nemanja Vidic and as much as I don’t want him to leave, Manchester United and David Moyes must move on and accept one of their best players is leaving.