Man Utd Club Focus – Vidic injury blow adds to pain of Champions League elimination

As if a painful night that saw Manchester United knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday could not get any worse, the confirmation that captain Nemanja Vidic is likely to miss the rest of the season only exacerbated matters. The Serbian was injured when stretching to regain the ball and fell awkwardly, damaging his knee ligaments and potentially United’s chances of retaining the Premier League.

The points gap between United and Manchester City may only be five, the kind of disparity United made a habit of clawing back in years past, but there are other measures that separate the sides greater. The strength in depth of City is one in their favour and possibly a deciding factor in the title race. United, without Vidic, must rely on a waning Rio Ferdinand and combinations of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans. Smalling, at fault for Basel’s second goal and not covering himself in glory for the first, has much to prove at centre-back. Jones has become a utility player, with his abilities suited also to right-back or maybe midfield, while Evans has still yet to convince he can ably understudy Vidic. The replacements are all talented and stars of the future, but it is the present that needs taking care of.

United’s growing injury list and the squad’s ability to carry on without the players in the treatment room is without doubt cause for concern at Old Trafford. With Vidic on the disabled list are the da Silva twins, Fabio and Rafael, Ashley Young, Anderson, Tom Cleverly, Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez. With such names walking wounded the visit of a robust Wolverhampton Wanderers is not what the doctor ordered. Mick McCarthy’s side are wily and aggressive – just the right side of the latter, usually – and will relish coming to a United in flux and robbed of some vital names. The champions should still take three points from the fixture and Sir Alex Ferguson has surely been in this situation before – is there any situation he has not been in? – but a number of his players have not. How they react could be the making of them as title challengers.

Ferguson was at pains to talk up his young players in the aftermath of the Champions League disappointment and Vidic injury. He said: “These young players have already achieved many things. Smalling, Jones and Welbeck have all played for their country. [They] will be the foundation of the club in a few years’ time. These young players got a nasty experience on Wednesday…they will not be hounded because of one bad performance. Time will prove us right.” Undoubtedly wise words from the manager, and one of the axiomatic features of football is that games come so quickly there is always the chance to atone for an error, but to avoid nasty experiences becoming more frequent, those young players must rise to the challenge.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Man Utd v Wolverhampton

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