Injury battler Nemanja Vidic on cusp of Manchester United return to help guide young Alex Buttner in final group tie

By Paddy von Behr

Sir Alex Ferguson is licking his lips at the chance to welcome back long-term injury battler Nemanja Vidic in Manchester United’s last Champions League group game on Wednesday.

The Reds face CFR Cluj-Napoca having already secured qualification to the final 16 as group winners and their captain is on the verge of making an early return.

Ferguson will look to rest some senior players for the game, but the prospect of starting Vidic is a welcome sight for United supporters.

“He’s a battler, an absolute competitor,” said Ferguson. “He’s got that dour, uncompromising way of his. He likes defending – that’s what he does.”

Vidic hasn’t featured for the Reds since September after sustaining a knee injury, something which plagued him last season.

But his manager is hopeful the Serbian centreback will be able to start the game as the experienced head in a youthful back four.

“I’m hopeful maybe Vidic will play,” added Ferguson. “I think there’s a good chance he will but it depends on how he feels himself.

“It allows me to give Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Vidic in a strong back four and Alexander Büttner would be leftback.

“There’s a good foundation to start in the game in terms of respecting the challenge between Galatasaray and Cluj. I think we’re doing the right thing.”

It is unlikely Vidic will be ready for the Manchester derby next weekend, but his return should bolster United’s leaky defence over the festive period.

The Reds have managed just one clean sheet in their last 12 outings and Ferguson is aware he can’t rely on his free-scoring strikers for too long.

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