Sir Alex Ferguson is facing a mounting injury list at Manchester United, but he knows he can rely on one man - Nemanja Vidic. Despite a ninth successive clean sheet in Wednesday night's 1-0 Premier League win over Wigan at Old Trafford, Ferguson has a few concerns ahead of tomorrow's trip to Bolton.
In attack, Wayne Rooney, who scored the only goal, will be missing for three weeks and Carlos Tevez is a major doubt after limping out of a challenge by Titus Bramble. But it is defence where United could be stretched the most. Already without Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra, the Red Devils could be missing Jonny Evans too after the Northern Ireland international suffered an injury that left him struggling to complete the full 90 minutes.
Thank goodness for Vidic then. As Ferguson pointed out, the Serbian's defensive masterclass bore comparison with any rival. He said: "Nemanja was magnificent. "It was the best performance you are likely to see from a natural centre-half. "His reading of the game is excellent and he is as tough as nails. He was absolutely superb." The Chelsea captain John Terry hailed his men's fighting spirit after the players answered the criticism of manager Luiz Felipe Scolari with a 4-1 victory over Southend to secure a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The Blues and their Brazilian coach had been under pressure following Sunday's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Premier League rivals United, who have now moved about them in the table. Scolari's men - minus the striker Didier Drogba who was not included in the squad - rallied after going behind to a goal from Shrimpers captain Adam Barrett in a match which had initially been called off by referee Chris Foy because of fog at Roots Hall.
Terry said: "We have been under-performing recently, and I think the manager was right to criticise us for not fighting enough. This game was an opportunity for us, and we showed great spirit." Despite his exclusion, Drogba - a reported transfer target for Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan - remains a "very valuable member" of Chelsea's squad, according to assistant first team coach Ray Wilkins. He said: "We have a very big squad, some exceptional players and Felipe felt Nicolas [Anelka] was the man to take the field tonight. Whether Didier will be included at the weekend, we don't know, but he is certainly a very valuable member of our staff."
* PA Sport