A famous adage states that offense wins games, but defence wins championships. On Saturday, it was definitely a case of defence winning us a very important game on Saturday and the latter part of that saying could still be realised by the end of the season.
I am fairly sure I was not the only person counting on fingers the number of defenders in the Utd line-up as team news was being read out on the stadium tannoy. I ended up with 5 full-backs and 2 central defenders!
It’s just incredible how players like O’Shea, Brown and even Gibson who get slammed so often by the fans of their own team keep turning up for us when we most need them. They don’t score last-gasp winners or make defence splitting passes, but when the squad is stretched, they slot in effortlessly (albeit not majestically, we don’t need them to tear defences apart) and deliver. They still get abuse week in week out with fans demanding we sign super-stars (who will be too happy to sit on the bench and play in 10 different positions on the pitch…) to replace them.
Given how fluid and versatile our line-ups have been this season, I almost came to the conclusion that these so-called fringe players could be the main ingredients to league success this year!
But if we had to pick our most important player at the moment, most United fans would go for exciting players like Nani who has been fantastic or club top scorer Berbatov. Rooney and Giggs might be in with a shout. One player who might be, in my book, unfairly sidelined would be Vidic.
Against Arsenal on Saturday, he was again a rock in our defence. If Berbatov has scored 19 league goals this season and Nani has created 15 and scored 9, Vidic has probably stopped a handful in every single game! Moreover, being club captain seems to have made him more confident on the pitch and that has improved his game further. Another player who will almost definitely be ignored is Edwin Van Der Sar. Forget about our versatile players, Vidic, Valencia’s impressive return or the Da Silva twins, for me, the only way we managed to beat Arsenal on Saturday was by having the world’s best goalkeeper between the posts.
At 40, he still oozes class. Utd have benefited enormously from the mega-confidence on the ball, awesome distribution skills, sharp focus and, above all, the magnificent saves of the Dutchman. This is not new news, VDS has always been amazing for us. And we often fail to appreciate how instrumental he is to Man Utd. I would even go as far as saying that Vidic and Van Der Sar are probably much more important to Man Utd than Rooney or even Giggs is!
So, on the basis of a tremendous victory against Arsenal, I find myself hard to look beyond our defence (and our world-class goalkeeper) as our main driving force between now and May as we push on for the league title No.19.
N.B: No talk of the dreaded T-word please (I mean treble). Arsenal were going for the quadruple 2 weeks ago and look what happened! I think the overwhelming priority is the league this season.