Vidic out as United seek answers
A wretched 24 hours for Manchester United appears to have got even worse after Nemanja Vidic's agent said the defender ruptured cruciate knee ligaments in Basel last night.
Vidic immediately signalled he was in trouble after falling awkwardly following a tangle of legs with Marco Streller during the first-half of the shock 2-1 defeat. Sir Alex Ferguson said after the game his captain had suffered ligament damage, but hoped the damage was not too serious.
However, speaking to an Italian website, Vidic's agent Silvano Martina delivered some devastating news. "Unfortunately he has suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament," said Martina.
In response to a follow-up question asking if the player would be out for several months, the agent said: "Unfortunately so, yes."
If the worst is confirmed by Ferguson at tomorrow's scheduled press conference to preview Saturday's Premier League encounter with Wolverhampton Wanderers, it would inevitably rule Vidic out for the remainder of the campaign.
The Serbian's return from a calf problem sustained in the opening-day win at West Bromwich Albion was cited by many as the moment United's defensive difficulties began to ease.
Despite repeated suggestions the player would leave Old Trafford, Vidic remains one of the key figures in Ferguson's squad and his absence would place additional focus on the younger players such as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
It would certainly cause Ferguson a major headache given his other defensive stalwart, Rio Ferdinand, has as of late been rarely able to string games together due to a series of muscular problems. The news merely heightens the sense of disappointment felt at last night's defeat, which saw United fail to emerge from the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2005.
"We have to be honest and say we haven't been professional from the beginning of this competition," admitted Patrice Evra. "I don't know why. Maybe one or two of us have to look in the mirror and say we can do a lot better than we have done. Everyone. And I am the first."
A new outlook
It means instead of pondering the potential hazards posed by a second-place finish in the Champions League, including Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, United will need to start planning to face a whole different set of opponents.
Romanians FC Vaslui for instance, who must do what United failed to achieve last night, and win in Switzerland, against FC Zurich, to secure qualification as Group D runners-up. Lokomotiv Moscow, Rubin Kazan and Maccabi Haifa are three others who will provide not just an obdurate challenge to be overcome but also significant travel inconvenience.
It is not a competition that is looked on with any affection by top clubs, unlike Stoke City, who have had such a fine time this season, and Fulham, who reached the final two years ago.
Yet Evra is adamant United will try to win it, although their priority has to be closing the five-point gap Manchester City have opened up at the Premier League summit. "We are Manchester United," he said. "We won't throw the season away. We still have things to win this season and we have to make sure we do that.
"We need to play with heart and the fans deserve more than us throwing away the Champions League and the Premier League."