This is not only because he was a beast of a central defender who would throw his face between the ball and the goal if he had to, but because his transfer fee from Spartak Moscow in 2005 was a mere £7 million, one of many players plucked by Ferguson from the periphery of European soccer who would go on to play at the highest level. In the case of Vidic, who announced his retirement today, his accomplishments over eight years included a Champions League trophy in 2008 and five Premier League titles, one of which was powered by the modest offensive talents of Dimitar Berbatov, Park Ji-sung, and Chicharito.
Ferguson is as much to blame as anyone for the sad state of Premier League football, where an inflated market for established talent and a demand for immediate returns has diluted team identity and produced no discernible effect on the quality of play. But he had a great eye for talent at a bargain, from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (transfer fee: £1.5 million) to Cristiano Ronaldo (£12.2 million), and took the time to actually help those players develop, which used to be a requirement of the job. Will his successor, Louis van Gaal, have that luxury? Doesn’t look like it.