In an ever changing back line, Vidic’s imperious presence has ensured that the holes have been patched over. So to know that we won’t be seeing him again until next term due to ruptured cruciate ligaments in his knee will knock us for six as well as provide a massive boost to our rivals.
Already 5 points behind City in the title race, the chase has just been made infinitely harder and with a tough christmas period coming up we need our best players playing.
Injury hasn’t been kind to us this season and Vidic’s name is the latest to add to a list that will surely continue to grow.
This leaves us now with 4 center backs as well as auxiliary defenders in Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher but with Rio Ferdinand’s inability to remain fit for sustained spells and whispers that he is on the slide, the picture is even bleaker.
For me Rio is still a majestic defender, he might not be playing at his optimum this term but is still more than capable (although having Vidic beside him makes his job all the more easier).
So what now?
Well we have 3 of the best young center backs in the country and they will all need to step up.
Phil Jones has been the talk of the town this season and now more than ever he will need to show just why he is so highly regarded and it isn’t beyond him, he has a ‘let’s get it done attitude’ so he won’t be daunted by the task.
Whilst his energy in midfield has been refreshing as we can be a bit placid, there he is simple wetting his beak, his real role will be at center back and the tutorial will properly begin now.
Whilst he is still learning it is at moments like this legends are born/cemented so he has a chance to grow to his burgeoning reputation.
Like Jones, Chris Smalling will need to rise to the occasion. Solid recently, he had a blip against Basel on Wednesday as he lost Frei for their second goal.
I think at the moment Smalling is the better option for center back; whilst he and Jones are both blessed ability wise, I’d give Smalling the edge in terms of maturity and discipline.
Add to that he has experience of being in the trenches. Last season when Rio was seemingly lost in the physio room he deputised brilliant and notably one of his better performances came in the Manchester Derby so he can handle the big games.
But if there is a player that needs to stand up when called upon, it is Jonny Evans.
From being highly touted he has perhaps slipped to third in the heirarchy of our young defenders. Evans’ slide has been shocking to see especially when you compare him to the confidant young defender from his early United career.
His inclusion in the team is greeted with sighs by some but if ever there was a time he could turn that around it is now. In talking about Rooney’s poor form last term I stated a player doesn’t suddenly lose ability and I think the same can be said for Evans.
He hasn’t suddenly become a poor player but the massive knock his confidence must have taken following some poor performances combined with an irregular playing pattern means we aren’t seeing the best of Evans.
If ever we needed him to pick himself up and get back to his best it is now, whether he can is a different case.
And then there is the wild card.
Having seen first team action already this term, Vidic’s injury could also mean that Zeki Fryers gets a sniff around the first team in order to maintain the other player’s freshness.
Carling Cup games against lower league opposition are a different proposition to the Premier League but when he has played he has looked the part at both center and left back and his confidence will be high, so his use against some of the weaker teams and his inclusion in the first team full stop isn’t unlikely.
Of course with all of this there are other factors like the midfield doing it’s job providing adequate protection for the back line and as the adage goes attack is the best form of defence so we need to get back to scoring goals but United must cope with this loss. To capitulate now would make a troublesome season even worse.
After the Chelsea game it was remarked ‘who would have thought United would be able to beat Chelsea without both Rio and Vidic?’, we managed the task and whilst Chelsea may not be at their best, a shell of a Chelsea team will still give most a run for their money. The players are capable it is just a case of are the capable for the long term?
This will be looked upon as one of the season’s pivotal moments, crashing out of the Champions League and losing our captain for the rest of the season, a positive reaction from the players starting at Wolves tomorrow would at least allow us to steady the ship and begin to plan how we will navigate through the rest of the season.