Vidic 'injury' has Fergie at boiling point
Alex Ferguson's mounting frustration with Nemanja Vidic was laid bare yesterday when the Manchester United manager struggled to conceal his dismay at the defender's reluctance to return to action.
Vidic is firmly expected to leave Old Trafford in the summer, probably for Real Madrid.
While Ferguson emphasised that he wants the Serb to stay at the club, the manager is becoming irritated by the centre-half's insistence that he is not fit to play despite returning to full training 10 days ago.
United flew to Milan yesterday morning without Vidic, who has not played since the 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford on December 30.
The defender suffered a nerve problem in his calf during the warm-up before the FA Cup third-round tie at home to Leeds United four days later, and his lengthy recovery period has begun to test Ferguson's patience.
"It's a difficult one because he feels he needs a lot of training," the United manager said, his annoyance evident. "He has been training for the past 10 days but doesn't feel he's ready to be part of the games.
"That's something we have to be patient with, which we are doing at the moment."
Vidic appears to have had his head turned by the prospect of a move to the Continent since becoming disenchanted with life in Manchester. His wife is desperate to move to Spain or Italy, with Real leading the chase for his signature ahead of AC Milan and Barcelona.
Ferguson does not want to sell but has accepted that he is fighting a losing battle and will drive a hard bargain for the 28-year-old, who is contracted until June 2012. Real hope to strike a deal for about £20m but United may demand closer to £30m.
"I can't answer that question (about Vidic's future) simply because it's pure speculation," Ferguson said. "We get it from time to time because a lot of clubs want to buy our players and we just have to deal with that speculation. Of course we want him to stay. He's a great player, one of the best centre-backs in the world."
Another notable absentee on the flight to Italy was Anderson, the midfield player whose own future at United is appearing increasingly uncertain. The Brazilian has been frozen out by Ferguson, this being the sixth successive squad that the 21-year-old has been omitted from since he was fined a week's wages for skipping training and returning to his homeland three weeks ago.
Sources close to Anderson have conceded that Ferguson is "not happy" with the player but he is expected to come back into contention for the Premier League game against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Anderson is keen to stay at Old Trafford, but the manager will consider the player's position in the summer if there is not a marked improvement in his performances and attitude before the end of the season.
Lyons and Paris Saint-Germain inquired about taking him on loan last month but neither French club could reach an agreement with United, mainly because of the player's wage demands.
After an encouraging first season at United in the wake of his projected £20.4m move from Porto in July 2007, Anderson has struggled to fulfil his early promise and has appeared in only fits and starts this term, so much so that he is unlikely to go to the World Cup finals with Brazil in the summer.
Anderson fell out with Ferguson at the beginning of the season after taking exception to being told last August that he was not starting the Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley.
He is thought to have disappointed the manager with a below-par performance in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against Manchester City last month and was subsequently left out of the squad for the league match at home to Hull City on January 23 before going Awol.
Despite having made 96 competitive appearances for United, Anderson has scored only once, an alarming statistic, given that he is principally an attacking midfield player. (© The Times, London)