Nemanja Vidić told uefa.com there is "no secret" to Manchester United FC's great defensive run as they chase a 15th straight clean sheet against Blackburn Rovers FC, saying: "We never drop below the level we set ourselves."
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It is no surprise José Mourinho keeps popping up at Manchester United FC games. When your next opponents in the UEFA Champions League have gone a record 14 matches without conceding a goal in the Premier League it is something you have to see to believe.
If working out a way of breaching the United defence poses one set of problems for the FC Internazionale Milano coach, another is how to break through the aura of invincibility surrounding Sir Alex Ferguson's side at the moment. According to centre-back Nemanja Vidić the confidence gained during this record run is more important than any statistic ahead of next week's showdown with the Italian titleholders in the UEFA Champions League. "The best gift of all is the high level of self-confidence and that really means so much," Vidić told uefa.com. "We have no secret. We practice well, prepare well, have a good attitude during the game and are always consistent. We never drop below the standards we set ourselves."
Vidić insists the focus will not falter as they chase silverware on four fronts. "We do not want to stop here," said the Serbia centre-back, the Premier League player of the month for February. "We want more, we want trophies. Each victory is important. We have the same target for each game and for the season. I never felt any pressure about breaking any record, the number of minutes or matches or something like that. The most important thing is the result. Of course if we don't concede we are closer to earning points or qualifying for the next round of a cup competition. We just do our job to the highest level, with 100 per cent concentration."
Remarkably, United have achieved the record without a steady back four. Injuries to Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Vidić himself have given youngsters Rafael and Jonny Evans a chance to stake a claim and they have risen to the challenge. "The most important thing at United is the collective," Vidić said. "Four defenders cannot stop the opposition, just as two strikers cannot score all the goals. We always support our friends, we really are united. During this period some new and young players have taken their chance. They have given us a new quality and we are better because of that."
Van der Sar praise
Even so, Vidić reserves special praise for veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who has currently not conceded for 1,301 minutes in the league, one game short of a European record. "He is a very experienced guy. He means so much for us. He has stamina, calmness, experience. When you have a goalkeeper like him, you can play easily. He is part of our defensive line, a very important member and everything starts from him." Of centre-back partner Rio Ferdinand, Vidić adds: "We co-operate brilliantly. After a few years together we have a brilliant relationship and understand each other really well. Rio is a great person and a great friend."
The 27-year-old former FK Crvena Zvezda and FC Spartak Moskva defender is growing in stature with every game he plays for United. For a team famed for its array attacking talent it is the back line that is winning the plaudits this season and they have built their title challenge on the back of nine 1-0 victories in the league. Already through to the final of the League Cup, into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and riding high in the Premier League, United have domestic matters seemingly in hand and can perhaps afford to steal a glance at the big test on the horizon against Inter.
"Those will be hard matches," says Vidić, who is suspended for the first leg. "It's good that we will play the first game in Milan because playing the second leg in our stadium means so much to us. Those games are very high profile and something to really look forward to." No team has conceded fewer goals than United in the UEFA Champions League, and with Sir Alex's side in this kind of form, even Mourinho might feel a little apprehensive.