Belfast Telegraph

Crocked Vidic boosts Northern Ireland

By Simon Stone

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson may have suffered a blow with the loss of injured skipper Nemanja Vidic for up to five weeks — but the news will give Northern Ireland’s Euro 2012 hopes a lift.



That’s because Vidic will miss Serbia’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park on Friday, September 2.

Italy look certain group winners but Northern Ireland and Serbia — along with Slovenia — are battling it out for the play-off spot with Nigel Worthington’s side currently a point ahead of the Serbs in third place.

The absence of Vidic — along with Rio Ferdinand — also opens the Old Trafford door for Northern Ireland’s Jonny Evans.

With Vidic sidelined with a calf injury and fellow centre-back Ferdinand almost certainly out of Monday’s clash with Spurs with a hamstring problem, youth will most evidently be on show in defence.

And Ferguson has given Evans a ringing endorsement.

“Evans has ample experience, of course, and has been at the club since he was 12. He's played plenty of first-team games,” said Ferguson.

Ferdinand's injury is not as bad as first feared, although Vidic will be out for longer than originally expected.

Ferdinand has not been definitively ruled out for the visit of Spurs, but it is more likely he will return for the match at home to Arsenal next weekend.

Darren Fletcher (virus), Javier Hernandez (concussion) and Antonio Valencia (ankle) are all closing in on a return, but are not yet ready, whilst Michael Owen is out with a back problem.

It is likely there will be only one player over 30 in the starting line-up, with Patrice Evra returning at left-back after missing the game at The Hawthorns with an ankle injury.

Aside from Evra, ahead of 20-year-old goalkeeper David De Gea, new signing Phil Jones and Evans, 19 and 23 respectively, should line up at the heart, with 21-year-old Chris Smalling in at right-back.

“I'm not worried about the young players,” added Ferguson.

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