Nemanja Vidic

Manchester United are planning to ease captain Nemanja Vidic into the side as they attempt to protect him from any further setbacks, after an injury-stricken year for the Serbian. Sir Alex Ferguson is now willing to wait till the New Year to allow the defender to recuperate fully and prevent any recurrence of the injuries.

Vidic spent a major chunk of previous season on the sidelines, following a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered during United's Champions League group game against Basel. The 31-year-old started the 2012-13 campaign in good form but was back on the treatment table, following a recurrence of the same injury ahead of the Red Devils' match against Liverpool in September and also underwent an operation.

The centre-back was earmarked for a Christmas return by Sir Alex Ferguson earlier in the month but now it is expected to extend into the following year. Vidic's absence was sorely felt in United's 1-0 loss to Norwich at the weekend. The Red Devils have been leaking goals in his absence, with Ferguson's side having gone a goal down eight times in the Premier League, though they have successfully staged comebacks in five of them. United have now dropped to second position in the league, following Manchester City's 5-0 win over Aston Villa.

Nemanja Vidic

Vidic has been linked with a move to Russia, with Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel going on air to cause speculation over the Serbian's future at United. However, Ferguson will be hoping that the veteran will extend his stay for a couple more years as youngsters Chris Smalling and Phil Jones can benefit heavily from the veteran, who has been the mainstay in the club's defence since his arrival in 2006.

Smalling returned to the squad during United's 3-1 against Braga in the Champions League, following an injury that kept him out of England's Euro 2012 campaign and the start of the 2012-13 season. Meanwhile, Jones, who was also unavailable due to injury, is set to stage a comeback against Galatasaray in midweek.