United’s last home of the season was an emotional occasion 12 months ago as Sir Alex Ferguson walked out in front of the Stretford End one last time before bidding farewell to the ground where he had spent 26 years. The occasion might not be as grand as last season, given the horrible campaign and the difference stature of the men involved, but tonight a few reds could shed a tear or two.
After eight years, five Premier League titles, one European Cup and three League Cups Nemanja Vidic will make his final appearance at Old Trafford, before leaving United at the end of the season and moving onto Inter Milan on a free transfer. Patrice Evra too could be appearing at Old Trafford in a red shirt for the last time and that’s without even mentioning Ryan Giggs, who could be about to bring the curtain down on the most extraordinary career British football has seen.
However, while Evra and Giggs could still be at United next season, it’s time for Vidic to wave goodbye.
“I have great memories. To win five titles and the Champions League, I couldn’t dream of winning that many titles and of playing with so many great players. I have learned a lot, not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well,” said Vidic, who joined from Spartak Moscow in a £7m transfer in the 2006 January transfer window.
“I have been playing for the greatest manager ever, I believe.
“It was a great experience and this is going to be the best part of my career, these years with United.
“Manchester United make you feel part of the family. I have developed as a man at this club, it has been a great experience for me and my family. I have nothing to regret, I have given 100 per cent.”
Vidic was the last captain Sir Alex Ferguson appointed and he admitted that despite winning five league titles, the highlight of his United career was winning the Champions League in 2008: “You don’t win the Champions League every year.
“The club has won it three times and I was lucky to be part of a team who won it once. And we won it in Moscow, where I played for Spartak for one and a half years. I came back to the stadium to lift the trophy and that’s the greatest memory I have.”
Ryan Giggs could also be playing at Old Trafford for the last time tonight and he said of Vidic: “It’s always the same when great players leave the club. The club carries on but it’s always difficult when they do leave because they give such service and you do need to replace these sort of players. Not like for like sometimes but obviously with quality.”
Evra, who signed from Monaco for £5.5m in the same transfer window as Vidic, said: “I am really sad because when you speak about Nemanja it’s like you are speaking about myself because we joined the club together. I remember our first game it was so hard – we played in the reserves. We were so poor and René Meulensteen, the manager, took us both out.
“We were talking together in the dressing room and saying: ‘Oh my god, why have we come to Manchester United? We should go quickly back to our clubs.’ It was a difficult moment but we stuck together. We have [stayed] in the same hotel, we go into training together, we win the same trophies.”
If it feels like the end of an era, is because it is.