Manchester United legend Nemanja Vidic struck fear into most strikers he came up against – Mario Balotelli included.
The Italian forward, formerly of Manchester City, didn’t have Fernando Torres’ special ability to make Vidic look like a mere schoolboy, far out of his depths in the Premier League.
Strikers who didn’t possess the same levels of electrifying pace that Torres had typically came unstuck against the Serbian, who loved nothing more than a physical battle.
“He could fight with the most physical, he crunched into tackles, and he attacked the ball better than anyone I have ever seen,” Rio Ferdinand said about his former centre-back partner, per BBC Sport.
Balotelli vs Vidic
Balotelli was part of the City squad that sparked a power shift in Manchester but United were still on top when the teams met for the Community Shield in 2011.
The importance of English football’s annual curtain-raiser is often minimal, but in 2011 it meant a whole lot. City, under Roberto Mancini, were trying to prove they were more than just noisy neighbours; Sir Alex Ferguson’s team didn’t want to relinquish any of their prestige after winning the Premier League in 2010/11.
And so it wasn’t overly surprising to see Vidic and Balotelli come head-to-head in just the 13th minute.
The City striker wasn’t happy with the way Vidic competed with him for the ball and reacted by getting straight into the centre-back’s face.
Vidic was never going to flinch. He leaned his face back towards Balotelli’s and the Italian quickly realised it was time to back down.
Fans poke fun at Balotelli
Fans reacted to the video by poking fun at Balotelli.
“Balotelli thought he was duelling Rio Ferdinand than he turned, saw Vidic and walked away,” one comment read.
Another said: “Balotelli sizes up thinking he’s going to intimidate him, Vidic doesn’t flinch for a second and suddenly Super Mario turns into a Shy Guy.”
However, others appreciated the competitive spirit both players showed.
“Honestly so much respect here,” one fan wrote. “These two guys got in each other’s faces and moved on. No fake flops here.”
You can certainly imagine a player involved in a similar incident today falling to the ground and writhing around on the floor, can’t you?
So we’re going to say fair play to both Balotelli and Vidic.
A bit of aggression in a Manchester derby never hurt anyone.