Nemanja Vidic was as hard as nails.
Say what you like about Vidic’s claim to being the division’s finest centre-back of all time, but it’s surely beyond reproach that he’s the toughest defender of all to call England’s top-flight his home.
The fear factor of Vidic
Don’t just take our word for it, though, because the analysis of Robin van Perise upon Vidic’s departure from 2014 provides the perfect description of what it was that he brought to United.
According to the Daily Mail, Van Persie oh-so-perfectly explained: “When I think of him as a footballer, Nemanja puts his head where other players are scared to put their feet
“I see him diving sometimes to block a ball and when I’m witnessing that I’m scared for him, scared that something bad happens to him. But, this is Nemanja… unbelievable!
“The way he defends, the way he lives his life is incredible. I will miss him, Manchester United will miss him but Inter Milan can feel very lucky to have him for the next few years.”
Vidic striking fear into opponents
As such, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that more than a few players got a little jittery at the knees whenever they came face-to-face with Vidic.
Not only did you want to avoid being on the receiving of a ten-tonne slide-tackle from the Serbian, but you also wanted to dodge any chance of him staring into your soul as part of a confrontation.
Besides, even the most daring, ambitious and arguably foolhardy of competitors would wilt like a little daisy when they took on Vidic – and that includes a certain Mr. Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli vs Vidic
When he wasn’t splattering his name across the front and back pages every other week at Manchester City, Balotelli was making his presence felt on football pitches across the country.
Whether that was through mercurial moments of genius or flashes of the red mist descending, you could always rely on Balotelli to ruffle more than a few feathers during his time in sky blue.
Nevertheless, even the sometimes brazen naivety of the Italian met its match when it came up against – you guessed it – Vidic himself during a Manchester derby in the 2011 Community Shield.
Balotelli shrinks in front of Vidic
A YouTube video of their coming together rather aptly titled: “Nemanja Vidic vs Balotelli,” has no less than seven million views with nobody under any illusion as to who came out on top.
That’s because Balotelli went from furiously reacting to having been knocked to the ground by Vidic to sheepishly downing tools at the sight of the United juggernaut in the space of a half second.
The situation is made all the more amusing by the fact that Balotelli might not have realised that it was Vidic he was about to square up to until the very last minute.
So, go on, be sure to do yourself a favour and check out what happens when somebody who would probably have considered himself to be an unstoppable force met a true immovable object.
Don’t worry, Mario, we’d have done exactly the same thing… and then ran… and then curled up in a ball… and then cried… and then called our mum.
The moment Balotelli realises…
We mean this analogy with all due respect to Balotelli, but it doesn’t half feel like watching a gazelle ready to give it biggun’ thinking it’s been blown over by the breeze only to see that there’s a lion sinking its teeth into its neck.
Well, that or Vidic just looking like exactly the sort of football player that you don’t want to mess with.
Silliness aside, it’s exactly the type of funny clip that illustrates the reputation and standing that Vidic had amongst the English game and it’s one that has arguably never been matched since.
The closest that anyone has come is Virgil van Dijk in terms of his omnipotent aura in defence, but Vidic still stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of that intangible fear factor.
No doubt he’s enjoying his evening right now by gently knitting to the sweet sound of Carly Simon as he unwinds to Bargain Hunt, but by god did he look like the Terminator incarnate on the pitch.