5 Magical Moments in Nemanja Vidic's Manchester United Career
Nemanja Vidic announced his retirement from football on Friday, ending an outstanding career that saw the Serbian defender excel at the highest levels of club football.
Although Vidic also played for Red Star Belgrade, Spartak Moscow and Inter Milan, he's best known for his brilliant work with Manchester United, where he won loads of trophies and earned several individual accolades.
In recent years, injuries severely limited the Serb's time on the pitch, and with hernia and back issues plaguing him this season, he decided to call time on his career. Via a statement on Manchester United's official website, Vidic said: "The time has come for me to hang up my boots. The injuries I have had in the last few years have taken their toll."
He added, "I would like to thank all the players I have played with, all the managers and staff I have worked with, and say a big 'thank you' to the fans for their support over the years."
Here, Bleacher Report remembers Vidic's fine career with five of his most magical moments with Manchester United.
Champions League Final, 2008
When discussing the high points of Vidic's career, there's only one place to start: the 2008 UEFA Champions League final. Vidic's Manchester United beat Chelsea on penalty kicks in Moscow, and the Serb marshaled the back line brilliantly alongside centre-back partner Rio Ferdinand.
For a representative sampling of Vidic's typically full-throttle contribution, see this YouTube clip of him defending a corner.
Vidic was prominently involved in one of the game's key incidents. Late in the second half of extra time, the two teams became entangled in a skirmish. Chelsea's Didier Drogba slapped Vidic and was subsequently sent off by referee Lubos Michel, depriving the Blues of their star striker in the penalty shootout.
Following John Terry's famous slip and miss, United won the shootout 6-5 to claim their third European title.
Winning Goal and Celebration Against Sunderland, 2008
Manchester United won a third straight Premier League title in 2008-09 as Vidic manned the back line, but in December 2008, the table suggested Liverpool had the inside track on the trophy.
Trailing their rivals by six points heading into a home fixture against Sunderland, United were in danger of falling further behind in the race. Marton Fulop produced a brilliant display in the visitors' goal, but with Sir Alex Ferguson watching from the stands (he was serving the last match of a touchline ban), Vidic grabbed a dramatic winner in stoppage time.
Michael Carrick struck the post with a deflected shot, and Vidic was on hand to tuck the rebound into the net as Old Trafford erupted. Vidic celebrated with abandon, which only endeared him further to the home supporters.
"If we get within two or three points of the top two by the turn of the year, we will have a marvelous chance [to win the title]," Ferguson told BBC Sport. "It has not been easy for us, but we have coped very well."
United won the title, finishing four points ahead of Liverpool.
Diving Block on Adebayor
Manchester United's supporters will forever remember Vidic for his committed, robust style of defending. The Serb never shied away from a challenge and never showed an ounce of fear in doing so.
As an example, consider a moment from United's Champions League semi-final first leg against Arsenal in April 2009. As Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor shaped to shoot, Vidic flung himself at the ball and headed it away from Adebayor's foot.
Crazy? Maybe. Effective? No doubt about it. And for a Manchester United fan, it was a crystal-clear sign that Vidic cared about winning as much as (or maybe even more than) anyone else on the pitch.
Manchester United won the semi-final 4-1 before falling to Barcelona in the final.
Team and Individual Honors
Vidic's brilliance was reflected in the personal and team honors he collected during his time with Manchester United. While these might not be moments per se, they collectively give us a glimpse of how important the defender was for his club.
At the club level, Vidic won five Premier League titles, three League Cups, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup. The 2010-11 Premier League title was his first as captain, and the 2012-13 triumph was his last with Manchester United.
Vidic was just as decorated at the individual level. A member of the FIFPro World XI in 2008-09 and 2010-11, he was also selected to the PFA Premier League Team of the Year four times. In addition, he was the Premier League Player of the Season in 2008-09 and 2010-11 and a member of the public's Premier League 20 Seasons Fantasy Team alongside Tony Adams in central defense.
Curler vs. Aston Villa, 2011
Vidic scored 21 goals for Manchester United, an excellent total for a central defender. Frequently popping up in dangerous positions in the opposition's box, the Serbian was capable of producing great finishes when given the opportunity.
One such chance came against Aston Villa during a Premier League match at Old Trafford in February 2011. In the 63rd minute, Wayne Rooney, who scored twice on the night, laid off a pass inside the box for Vidic. With a sweet first touch, the Serb curled a powerful drive into the net from the edge of the box, capping off another victory for the home side.
It was a magical moment in the opposition's box for a brilliant player who contributed so much to the club at the other end of the pitch.