Can Manchester United Cope Without Nemanja Vidic?

There is more injury news coming from Manchester United this week. Just as Wayne Rooney is returning, the club announced that Nemanja Vidic will be out for 2 months to repair the meniscus in his knee.

 

The news is particularly troubling for Manchester United fans because unfortunately they have seen this play before. Vidic suffered a rash of injuries last season, culminating with a season-ending knee injury in Manchester United’s shocking UCL loss to FC Basel. Hopefully Vidic can regain the form of 2010/2011, when he started 35 games and even chipped in 5 goals on 21 shots. However, the growing concern for Vidic as an individual is that Man United are getting used to playing without him. After logging over 3,000 minutes in that 2010/2011 season, Vidic managed only 502 last season, and will now miss close to a quarter of the 2012/2013 season.

Without Vidic, United still finished with 21.1 tackles per game in 2011-2012, second-highest in the league.  Meanwhile, Man United gave up 13.4 shots per game, good enough to stay in the top half of EPL defenses. This season, with Vidic in the lineup, one can make the argument that his fellow defenders have had to account for his limited range of movement. Fellow 30+ defender Rio Ferdinand is 3rd in the league with 12.7 clearances per game, while right back Rafael is also 3rd in the league with 5.3 tackles per game. Man United as a team is giving up 14.2 shots per game, with 63% of those shots coming from inside the penalty box. Last season (with Vidic injured) Man United allowed 13.4 shots per game, and only allowed 33 goals through 38 games.

This week, look for 24 year old Johnny Evans to once again fill Vidic’s role in central defense. Evans, once known for making rash decisions and bad fouls in dangerous parts of the field, is learning to read the game better. He increased his interceptions per game to 1.9 in 2011-2012, and should be influential against a Tottenham offense that relies more on crosses and long balls. 

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