Mind games key to Manchester United's success
Nemanja Vidic has said Manchester United are benefiting from his telepathic instinct with Rio Ferdinand.
United's most experienced central defenders were reunited at Wolves last weekend for the first time since the end of October and maintained their partnership for Wednesday's Champions League encounter with AC Milan.
It was hardly a coincidence the response brought a couple of clean sheets that took the Red Devils back to the Premier League summit and into the last eight of Europe, for Vidic accepts that after four years, he and Ferdinand know exactly what they are doing.
“We understand each other,” said Vidic ahead of United’s revenge mission against Fulham tomorrow. “We know all about each other. He knows how I will react in certain situations and it is the same the other way round.
“I know there is this feeling that I get all the knocks and Rio has the ball. But we both do both things and we can both be aggressive. I don't think my job is hard and his is easy.”
Certainly United look to be a far more formidable force now Vidic has recovered from a mysterious nerve problem in his leg and Ferdinand is over the back problem that first started troubling him prior to the 2008 Club World Cup in Japan.
Sir Alex Ferguson can see the impact, for all he rates the ability of Northern Ireland starlet Jonny Evans and currently injured duo Wes Brown and John O'Shea.
“Having them back is fantastic for us,” said the Scot.
“They were both brilliant on Wednesday. It is definitely gives us a big chance because they bring us experience and consistency.”
Vidic accepts it will be another few weeks before he is back to his best, although with Liverpool arriving at Old Trafford, he is bound to have a renewed sense of purpose given he has been sent off on his last three encounters with Rafael Benitez's men, and been shown up by Fernando Torres in the process.
However, together with Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Edwin van der Sar, Vidic forms the bedrock of a defence who have been together throughout United's three Premier League title-winning years and now have their sights set on a fourth.
“Communication between us all has been built up over a long time,” said the Serbian.
“It is nice when you have an understanding. We know what each other is going to do.”
Although he gives Fulham due respect, Vidic noted the Cottagers were on their European travels on Thursday and Roy Hodgson's preparations will be far more rushed than United's have been.
Every advantage counts at this stage of the season too, because the 28-year-old is aware it is getting towards the time of the season when medals are handed out.
“We won the league three years on the trot and have been in the final of the Champions League two seasons, so we knew this season was going to be more difficult,” said Vidic.
“It was not just about Ronaldo. He is a great player and played a big part in our success over the years. We can't deny that.
“But it is difficult to keep yourself at the top. Yet we are still in the Champions League and we are top of the table. Hopefully we can keep going until the end.”
Fulham will nonetheless be buoyed by the fact that they pulled off a shock 3-0 win over Sir Alex Ferguson's side at Craven Cottage just before Christmas.
Zamora, who was on the scoresheet in the United win, failed to make an impact in last night's third round first leg loss at the Stadio Olimpico di Turin.
Fulham's top scorer believes home victories over United and Liverpool (who they beat 3-1 in October), show that they are capable of pulling off a similar upset in the return leg on Thursday.
“We beat United 3-0 and Liverpool 3-1, which are two massive scalps,” said Zamora, who has scored 15 goals this season.
“I see no reason why we can't do it against Juventus.
“I never thought Juventus really troubled us much, which is why we're so disappointed to concede two goals from set plays. But if we get an early goal next week, it's set up again. The crowd will be buzzing at our place, and we still have a lot of hope.”
Captain Danny Murphy should overcome a groin injury to return in midfield for the United game while Stefano Okaka and Nicky Shorey, who were both cup tied for last night's game, are also available.