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Premier League: Is Vidic just the start of a mass exodus at struggling Manchester United?

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Nemanja Vidic has today agreed a deal to join Italian giants Inter Milan at the end of the season, starting the firing pistol on what could be a long summer of exits for Manchester United.

The defender and United captain recently announced that he would be leaving the club this summer after his current deal expires in June, with no talks about an extension forthcoming.

Italy was always touted as his favoured destination, but which club he will sign for has finally been clarified after he signed on the dotted line for Inter.

Vidic signed for United from Spartak Moscow in 2006 for £7m, and has gone on to lift five Premier League titles and the Champions League during his time at the club.

Vidic has now been the official club captain for four seasons, but it has been widely speculated that through injury and loss of form he, like centre back partner Rio Ferdinand, has become a spent force.

He has however been relatively consistent this season, given United's turbulent campaign, which has seen them knocked out of both domestic cups, on the wrong side of a 2-0 deficit in the Champions league, and sitting 7th in the Premier League, with Champions League qualification a serious doubt.

But when looking at why he has left, it is important to consider that it's significance does not come down to his form, age or fitness. The biggest signifier of Nemanja Vidic's move to Inter Milan after eight seasons at United is this- the changing of the guard has begun at Old Trafford.

You could argue it began in January, with Brazilian midfielder Anderson moving on loan to another Serie A club Fiorentina for the rest of the season. Reports then emerged of an interview in which Anderson claimed that 'several players' wanted out of United, something the player later denied saying.

Opinion is divided on whether United's poor season is down to manager David Moyes' regime, or whether last season the squad flattered to deceive, and was dragged to a Premier League title by the talismanic Sir Alex Ferguson, against what was considerably weaker opposition than this season.

What everyone has pretty much agreed on is that something has to change, with the prospect of several first team players moving on much more likely than the club sacking Moyes less than a year into a six year deal.

So who will follow Vidic out the door? We look at some of the candidates below:

Rio Ferdinand: United's most expensive ever signing until the arrival of Juan Mata in January, Ferdinand has been an ever present at the back for the club for over a decade, but his stay at United looks to be coming to an end. Like Vidic, with whom he formed a record breaking defensive partnership, injuries and age (he is 36 in November) have caught up with Rio, and with his contract up in the summer, at present he looks very likely to leave.

Tom Cleverley: A product of United's youth system, until recently Cleverley was talked about with the likes of Jack Wilshere as one of England's bright hopes. But despite some promising performances since breaking into the first team proper in 2011, his inconsistency this season has caused critics to question whether he is the man to replace Paul Scholes as Ferguson once hoped. There is no doubt that David Moyes will bring at least two more central midfielders, but he will have to stick or twist with Cleverley; does he hold on to him and hope he comes good, or does he cut his losses and move on?

Ashley Young: Another inconsistent performer, since his big money move from Aston Villa, Young has never really taken off at United. Alongside the likes of Nani and Anderson, Young has failed to deliver and end product during games on a regular basis, and has been in and out of United's team this season. With the signing of Juan Mata, it's possible that United may move towards having a more central attack, as opposed to their tradition of having two wide men, something which Young could fall victim to.

Chris Smalling: He and Phil Jones have been seen as the pair to eventually take the place of Vidic and Ferdinand. But this season Smalling has been found out somewhat, with a string of poor performances, although he has been played more regularly as a right back than his favoured centre half role. His performance against Olympiakos in the Champions League recently was particularly poor though, and with Vidic leaving and Ferdinand likely to follow, Moyes will perhaps not want to let another centre back go. But whether he sees Smalling as the answer to their defensive problems remains to be seen.

Nani: The Portuguese winger arrived at the same time as Anderson, and like him has never quite lived up to the billing he got when he arrived. Although he has contributed more in the way of goals and assists than the Brazilian, he hasn't emerged as the star people were expecting him to be. He also had the problem of often being compared to former team mate at United and fellow countryman Christiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is almost without equal, but after he moved on to Real Madrid, Nani claimed he could fill his boots. In short, he hasn't. In is 143 league matches for United over the past seven seasons, he's scored 26 goals. Ronaldo bettered that in the 2007/08 season alone, scoring 31 goals in 34 league games. It could be time for Nani to move on, and David Moyes could agree.

Robin Van Persie: Hailed as the man who decided last season's title race, after choosing to move from Arsenal to United over rivals City, Van Persie has cut a different figure this season from the man who scored 26 league goals last term. He has fallen foul of injury, something which consistently hampered his Arsenal career, and after the defeat to Olympiakos criticised his team mates for occupying spaces he wanted to run into. He has still scored 11 goals in the 15 Premier League appearances he has made, but his attitude seems to be increasingly negative towards David Moyes, with rumblings earlier on in the season that they were not getting on. After his outburst last week, the rumblings could be true.

We have highlighted a few United players here, but in truth there are very few players that you could say are 100% certain to be United players next season. Rooney, Mata and goalkeeper David De Gea are probably the three certs, and Phil Jones and Jonny Evans are highly unlikely to leave, but can the same be said of the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Patrice Evra, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Alex Buttner, Antonio Valencia, or Rafael?

The simple answer is no, but that's not even the right question. The big question is, will Manchester United be worse off for getting rid of these players? Moyes apparently wants up to eight new signings, with presumably at least that going out, so will be going? In reality, it could be any of the above.

 

 

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