Nemanja Vidic once again proved the value of a tough defender whose positioning and leadership at the back gave Manchester United an almost impenetrable look last night. Good defenders defend first and contribute with niceties as a secondary quality. Row Z is certainly not out of bounds for the United captain, who gave an excellent example of no nonsense defending.
Arsenal, despite the possession they enjoyed, carried little threat and were restricted to only four shots that Edwin van der Sar had to deal with. On the few occasions when Arsenal crossed balls Vidic headed with authority, the Serbian's clearances carrying height and distance. Never getting caught square on to face the player delivering the cross, Vidic keeps one eye on the ball and one eye on his opponent.
When Arsenal tried to thread their trademark short passes through defenders, Vidic's challenges were physical but fair. Dragging his covering full-back in tight, Vidic knows that he can attack the ball with confidence, safe in the knowledge that, should he make a rare mistake, he has created the security to clear up after him. The experienced Rio Ferdinand was alongside him and United's central defensive pair helped to stifle Arsenal.
Arsène Wenger's side were unable to find any space in behind the United defence as Vidic decided against taking any risks. There was no temptation to try to catch Marouane Chamakh offside because Vidic had complete confidence in his ability to cope in any one-on-one situation against Arsenal's lone striker.
He also showed his organisational skills as he kept his backline together on an imaginary piece of string, moving forward and back in unison but always ensuring the quartet had depth. He also knows when the time is right to hold a line, in particular when the ball is wide. This gives Van der Sar the space to attack the ball in the area between his defenders and the goalline.
Arsenal threw caution to the wind later on but United looked strong. Their power and athleticism allowed them to contain Arsenal and shade this somewhat disappointing spectacle.