Manchester, United Kingdom – Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is hoping to welcome back captain Nemanja Vidic for his side's final Champions League group game against Romanian side CFR Cluj.
The 31-year-old Serbian defender returned to training last week after undergoing knee surgery in September that has kept him out of action.
Ferguson is set to make a host of changes for the game at Old Trafford, much like they did for the visit to Galatasaray, as United have already secured qualification to the knockout stages as group winners.
The return of Vidic would be a boost for Ferguson after United conceded three in a seven-goal thriller against Reading on Saturday – a game the manager described as “ridiculous”.
Ferguson may also rest Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans ahead of the Manchester derby on Sunday as he does not expect Vidic to feature in that crunch clash even if he plays against the Romanian side on Wednesday and comes through unscathed.
“I'm hopeful Vidic will play. I think there is a good chance he will,” said Ferguson. “It depends on himself, of course.
“It's a big bonus (to have Vidic back). The game will allow me to play (Phil) Jones, (Chris) Smalling, Vidic and (Alexander) Buttner can play left back. That is a good foundation to start the game.
“I knew he was doing really well with the physios and he was doing football training with them in terms of striking the ball.
“But he came into training last Monday with the first team and did okay. He was not involved in the competitive part, he was passive in playing for both teams and being free...but he did alright.”
Asked if Vidic could then play against City, Ferguson replied: “No, no, no but Wednesday is a good starting point.”
Ferguson believes the return of Vidic will help him solve United's defensive frailties which have somehow not scuppered their ambitions yet this season.
“He is a real competitor,” said Ferguson. “That uncompromising way of his... he likes defending. That's what it is. He will absolutely help us in the second half of the season. He gives us the options.”
One player who may benefit from Ferguson making changes is former Crewe midfielder Nick Powell who made his first Champions League start in the 1-0 defeat to Galatasaray last time out.
And experienced Scotland international Darren Fletcher has backed the 18-year-old to continue to impress if he gets his chance.
“I thought we were unfortunate to lose that match,” said Fletcher. “We played a couple of young players and put in a good performance. It will have been massive for Nick Powell's development.
“Nick is a fantastic player already. He is still relatively young but he is going to be a huge player for United. There is no doubt about that.”
Nani, Antonio Valencia, Anderson and Shinji Kagawa are expected to miss out with injury while Cluj have a full squad to choose from.
The Romanian side know a win will secure their berth in the knockout stages if Galatasaray fail to beat Braga in Portugal while a point would be enough at Old Trafford if the Turkish side lose. – Sapa-AFP