Belfast Telegraph

Ferguson's warning for Vidic

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has warned Nemanja Vidic he cannot expect to walk straight back into his side once he has recovered from knee surgery.

Vidic has already ruled out rushing himself back to fitness after his cruciate operation to play any part in the remainder of this season, and Ferguson has now confirmed the 30-year-old will not be going on United's pre-season tour either.

He added that on Vidic's return, the team will be strong at the back, and warned: "Then I can pick and choose whatever two I fancy or whatever two are in consistent form."

Rather than implode in Vidic's absence, as many predicted as he was stretchered off during the Champions League defeat to Basel in December, United have blossomed.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have done their bit, Rio Ferdinand has been excellent and Jonny Evans has arguably been United's most improved player, making 35 appearances, more than any other defender at the club with the exception of Patrice Evra.

"Hopefully - and I think I am right - we are in a really strong position with centre-backs," said Ferguson.

"Jones and Smalling were bought for the long-term and have proved they can play in other positions of course and when Vidic comes back at the start of next season we will have a strong defensive core there."

By his own admission, last term was a poor one for Evans. Indeed, the Northern Ireland star admitted during pre-season that a repeat would probably signal the end of his time with the Red Devils.

However, the 25-year-old has responded in just the right manner to the threat posed by Jones's arrival in particular.

"Some people relish challenges, some people wither," said Ferguson. "The boy has definitely matured. He is 25 now and although he is young, he has had a lot of experience."

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