After a disappointing result away to Basel saw Manchester United eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were dealt a further blow with the news that captain Nemanja Vidic faces an extended spell on the sidelines after suffering a severe knee injury in Basel. On a night of shocks for United, the loss of a senior figure in the United side for the remainder of the season now provides another obstacle at United look to revive their campaign.
With Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar all retiring in 2011, replaced in their respective positions by the likes of Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and David de Gea, senior professionals such as skipper Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs each offer rare experience in a youthful United side. While history suggests Sir Alex has every capability of turning a young side into title contenders, after their shock Champions League exit just a week after a home League Cup defeat to Crystal Palace, the challenge of resurrecting their faltering campaign becomes increasingly difficult without the wealth of experience in the United dressing room as recently as 12 months earlier. Although Ferdinand, Vidic’s regular partner in recent years, has now recovered from his own injury problems, he has found himself competing for his place this season, under pressure from more youthful options such as Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones.
Having been restored alongside Vidic for the midweek defeat, in the Serbian international’s absence, and with 38-year-old Ryan Giggs used sparingly in the United starting line-up, Ferdinand will be hoping to secure a regular starting place. With first-choice goalkeeper de Gea aged just 21 and Jones and Smalling just 19 and 22 respectively, the inclusion of 33-year-old former England captain Ferdinand, alongside 30-year-old left-back Patrice Evra will be crucial to United’s hopes entering the busy December calendar.
While United’s problems run deeper than defensive availability, the champions will be looking to show more potency in front of goal, with talismanic forward Wayne Rooney lacking goals in a frustrating campaign for the England forward. However, with Ashley Young impressing following his summer move from Aston Villa, United supporters will still have cause for optimism, as their side look to recover from recent disappointing results. However, with the loss of Vidic, United will be looking for leaders to emerge in the absence of their captain.
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