LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester United will “do the right thing” and field a strong line-up in their final Champions League Group H clash against CFR Cluj on Wednesday, with Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic likely to make a timely return from injury, manager Alex Ferguson said on Tuesday.
Premier League leaders United have already secured first place in the group and the home clash against the Romanians could offer a chance to rest key players ahead of the weekend’s derby at Manchester City.
Romanian club Cluj are still vying with Galatasaray for a place in the last 16 so there will be a competitive edge to a game Ferguson views as the perfect comeback test for the influential Vidic whose qualities have been sorely missed this season as United leak goals.
Vidic has been out since September after undergoing knee surgery.
”I‘m hopeful maybe Vidic will play,“ Ferguson told the club’s website (www.manutd.com). ”I think there’s a good chance he will but it depends on how he feels himself.
”It allows me to give Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Vidic (a game) in a strong back four and Alexander Buttner would be left-back. There’s a good foundation to start in the game in terms of respecting the challenge between Galatasaray and Cluj (for second place).
“I think we’re doing the right thing.”
United have conceded 21 goals in 15 Premier League matches this season - only Tottenham Hotspur in the top half have conceded more - and the return of Vidic would be a huge boost with the hectic Christmas schedule looming.
“I knew Vida was doing really well with the physios,” Ferguson said.
”He was doing his football training with them in terms of turning and striking the ball but he came into training last Monday with the first team and did okay.
“He’s a battler, an absolute competitor. He’s got that dour, uncompromising way of his. He likes defending - that’s what he does.”
United, who are three points clear of City in the title race, are past masters at reaping a large haul of points around the turn of the year and Ferguson, while having one eye on Cluj, is looking forward to more of the same.
After City, United welcome Sunderland to Old Trafford and then the Reds travel to Swansea City before completing 2012 with home games against Newcastle United and West Brom.
“It’s generally a good month for us,” Ferguson said.
”We usually get ourselves to the New Year in a challenging position and that’s where you want to be. When you have the second half of the season in front of you, you know full well that pressure can affect everyone, there’s no question about that. We tend to do not too badly.
“The start of the month, with City away, is a hard one, but then we’ve got Sunderland, Swansea, West Brom - we’ve got a reasonable programme, so we should be expected to gather some points there.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Clare Fallon