Vidic: United deserve to be on top
Nemanja Vidic insists the Premier League table does not lie. Despite holding on to top spot, albeit by just a single point thanks to Arsenal's win over Stoke last night, Manchester United are still being forced to fend off critics.
It is a subject that irritates Sir Alex Ferguson judging by his programme notes ahead of last week's encounter with Crawley. However, his side's performance against the non-leaguers, followed by a drab display in Marseille last night, when even Ferguson admitted "nothing happened" have again raised question marks about United's title credentials ahead of a run of three away games, that include trips to Chelsea and Liverpool.
Vidic does not believe they have any foundation. "I am not surprised by where we are. The table shows where we should be," said the United skipper. "In some games we scored a goal in the last minute but there were others, at Everton and Fulham for instance, when we conceded them. We are where we are. We have the points we should have overall."
Three more are imperative on Saturday. United have never failed to beat Wigan and now is not a great time to start given Roberto Martinez's men have been stuck in the relegation zone for the past couple of months and those tricky trips to Stamford Bridge and Anfield loom immediately afterwards.
Even though Ryan Giggs is the only absentee from last night that Ferguson is reasonably confident of having available, the Red Devils' greatest danger would appear to be looking too far ahead. Not that Vidic is expecting that to happen. "As players we don't have that kind of mentality," he said. "We are just taking it game by game. We have important matches to play but the next one is Wigan. We have to take the three points. I believe we can."
It does appear to be a crucial phase of the season for United. In the three weeks before they tackle Marseille again, they must tackle those three crucial Premier League games, which John Terry claims they might bottle, then almost certainly entertain Arsenal in the FA Cup sixth round.
It is only when those fixtures are complete that Didier Deschamps brings his side across the Channel, still as underdogs but knowing an away goal could really make United worry. Vidic understands all this. Yet he does not feel the Old Trafford outfit are the only ones under pressure. "It is not just a season-defining period for us. It is the same for everyone," he said. "This is the period when the big games come. If we play well in the next three games and pick up points we will have confidence for the next game against Marseille. That is what we have to focus towards now."
Vidic claimed there were some easily identifiable positives to emerge from last night's performance. The ease with which Chris Smalling continues to deputise in central defence for Rio Ferdinand is an obvious one. United have still only conceded one UEFA Champions League goal this season and Smalling started five of the seven fixtures, and was introduced as a substitute in one of the remaining two.
John O'Shea ensured there was no way through on the right, while Patrice Evra coped with the hostile reception on his first outing in France since the World Cup debacle in relative comfort. A spark was missing further up the field though, with a massive injury list, Ferguson's preference for Darron Gibson ahead of Paul Scholes and necessity requiring Wayne Rooney to fill a spot on the left wing all potential reasons for a woeful lack of goalscoring opportunities.
Still, on home soil, where United have dropped just two Premier League points all season, although admittedly also been held in two of their three Champions League game, Vidic is reasonably confident of dispatching Marseille. The rest will take care of itself. "We are just thinking about ourselves," he said. "We don't need to bother about other teams because we are in a good position. It all depends on us."