MANCHESTER // Nemanja Vidic has told his Manchester United teammates not to feel sorry for themselves. Last week was always likely to be a pivotal time in United's season and it could not have gone any worse. Defeat at Bayern Munich and an injury to Wayne Rooney as well was followed by another loss against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday that cost United the Premier League leadership and makes them outsiders to claim a record fourth successive title.
Little wonder there was a feeling of trepidation among fans leaving Old Trafford about the impending return leg against Bayern, who could be bolstered by returns of Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger. But Vidic says there is no point feeling down about the situation. It is at times like these when United need to show some character. "We were down after the Bayern game, but we cannot afford to be down again," said the Serbian.
"We need to get our heads up and face the facts. We have lost two games but we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves. We need to seize the moment and make sure we finish well this season." Having Rooney available would be the most obvious way of restoring fortunes, although according to Sir Alex Ferguson his 34-goal forward will be missing for at least another week - even if the feeling persists he might be back sooner.
However, there must be a marked improvement in United's normally reliable method of keeping possession as a failure in that department proved costly in both their recent defeats. In Premier League terms, though, the demand is straightforward. Two points adrift of Chelsea, with an inferior goal difference, Vidic knows only victories will do from now on. "Chelsea have just the league and the FA Cup to focus on, which helps them, but if we win all five games then we still have a good chance," he said. "I hope there will be more twists and turns and more dropped points before the end."
Mike Phelan, United's assistant manager, was vague when he addressed the question of Rooney's fitness, although clearly Wednesday falls outside the minimum two-week time-frame Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed on Friday. "You miss his goals," reflected Phelan. "He is a threat around the box. He is undergoing intense treatment and we are trying to get him as fit as we possibly can. But we know we can't risk these things. If he is ready, fine. If not, we have to use the players we already have."
* PA Sport