On Man United-Liverpool, Mourinho, Pogba, more: Nemanja Vidic Q&A
Former Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has given a wide-ranging interview on his life after playing and plans for the future, as well as Paul Pogba, Jose Mourinho and, ahead of Saturday's clash at Old Trafford, what it means to play -- and win -- against Liverpool.
Vidic spoke to the media earlier this week at St. George's Park, where he was taking the UEFA Pro Licence course.
On playing Liverpool
"[Manchester] City and United is a big game at the moment, but I still believe Liverpool-Manchester United is the biggest game in the Premier League. The amount of titles both Liverpool and United have won, you can never lose respect for that. What City have been doing in the last couple of years and the players they have at the moment makes that game more interesting, but it is still Liverpool and United.
"The first thing I think about when you mention Liverpool? Red cards! Not so much Fernando Torres; I don't see it that way. But all three sendings off I remember: The two yellows and then the red. Two of them were in the 89th, 90th minutes and one in the 77th minute; that was very hard to take because it was at Old Trafford."
On almost joining Liverpool
"Yes, in Rafa Benitez's time. I spoke to him about a few things, but my wife was the main one who spoke to him. He was interested in signing me, but I don't know what was the problem at the time. I spoke to him before I signed for Manchester United, though. I didn't meet, but we spoke over the phone, in my car in Moscow, with my wife translating.
"I didn't say no. They said just that they were interested, they want me. It was going to happen, going to happen. Then someone came and said: "Do you want to play for United?" and I said yes. After two days, everything was done. Then Liverpool said they wanted to do the deal but everything was done."
On Man United playing 'negative' football under Jose Mourinho
"At the end of the day, it's all about getting the win. Sometimes, to get results, you have scrappy games. But I think United should play the way they want to play. What is the Man United way now? Mourinho should play the way he wants to play. That's okay by me as long as the results are coming. At the end of the day, we are judged by results. But on television now we are speaking about -- yes it's important, the beauty of the game -- but as long as it's going to get the right result.
"You want to play football and represent Manchester United in the best possible way because you have a culture behind you, a history, a way of playing like all big clubs have. You have to be as close as you can to that system Manchester United has but, as well as that, you have your own personal touch. In my time we had players who could, in three seconds, go from one box to the other box. So then you would say yeah, on you come. It's about what you want from the game. Sometimes you have to be tactical and see what you have."
On Paul Pogba
"It is not the player's fault that a club is paying so much money for him. If someone offers you a big contract, you would not refuse, probably? I think the environment is important -- who is around you, for example -- to make you better. For the players of 22 and 23 to get so much money and publicity, he must feel like he is the most powerful person in the world. I was a football player, I felt like that: "Wow, I am feeling really good."
"But I think you need to have someone in the dressing room -- some of the players -- who can help you come through these difficult situations. You need the right senior players, with the credibility to help you go through the situation. Now, Pogba has a few players on the pitch, but this time he can go through with his players and his team.
"When I came to United I was 24 and the dressing-room was strong. You had Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, these guys. You always look to them for what you are doing, what you should be doing. They have already established the path, so there was less pressure on me."
On Man United's prospects
"It's Man United. I know the Premier League is bigger, but I think the Champions League could happen. When the season started, I said that I thought United had more chance to win the Champions League than the Premier League because the players they signed didn't have the time to fit in. Also, Mourinho is a tactical coach, knows Europe very well. He knows there are going to be scrappy games and how to get through them.
"That's my belief. To win, you need a bit of luck, but there is a chance to get to the semifinal or final. You never know. And if you win a Champions League, the players start to believe. They think: "OK, speak about me now." Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, they will look different than now."
On Sir Alex Ferguson's 'hairdyer'
"It is not power to scream to someone. You have power by knowledge, honesty, getting things right, earning the players' respect from your decision-making. I think when you have this, you have the hairdryer as well. The players, as much as we think they are spoilt, they still understand that you don't question the manager when he has all those blocks in place."
On David Moyes asking him to defend like Phil Jagielka
"I don't want to comment about what happened in the training ground. I would just like to say that me, personally, I tried to give 100 percent for David. Obviously he came. I wanted it to happen. I wanted him to succeed. I am sad he didn't. But if you are going to judge the manager, you can always find difficulty in what he said. Any manager."
On why players must earn a song from the fans
"When we started winning, that's why they started singing songs about us. If you want to have them sing songs about you, you need to win. The Man United fans do not sing about just anyone; you have to deserve it. But then they will support you because you are a Manchester United player. That's how I felt as a United player: You have to prove yourself by winning first of all. Win and a few players are going to get a song, that's for sure."
On being a pundit like Gary Neville
"Even when he was [playing] at the club, he did some pundit work for MUTV. I remember in the beginning it was difficult. He would come into the dressing room -- you know what players are like -- and it would be "you made a mistake there" and he did this and that. But he was brave enough to try and learn. To be fair, I am not surprised. When he wanted to do something he was always preparing himself and he always had an opinion, even in the dressing room.
"But if you ask me why I don't do the pundit role, it is because I like to say positive things about someone rather than negative. If I have something to say to someone, I will say it to their face."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_