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Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Carling Cup no distraction for Man Utd - Vidic

Nemanja Vidic insists Manchester United's lengthy Carling Cup campaign is a help rather than a hindrance.

United head to Derby County on Wednesday for the first leg of a semi-final that means every January midweek is filled with competitive action.

With the likelihood of a place in the final at Wembley on March 1, another Red Devils fixture - against Portsmouth - will need rearranging, with United's volume of matches reaching mammoth proportions before the campaign reaches its conclusion.

As a glut of fixtures was one of the reasons cited by manager Sir Alex Ferguson for a disappointing finale to the 2006-07 season, the suspicion might be that the club need not care too much whether they beat the managerless Rams or not.

But Vidic is having none of that. It seems any trophy is a welcome addition to the United cabinet - and with such a big squad to satisfy, the more games the better.

''This is not a distraction,'' he said. ''We want to win. We have a big squad, so we need a lot of games to keep everyone fit.

''This is an important time of the season. Injuries can happen at any time - which is why we need everyone to be ready when the big games come around.

''We also know there is a trophy at the end of it. Maybe the Carling Cup is not as big as the Premier League or even the FA Cup. But it is still a trophy, which is what Manchester United thrives on.

''We are in the semi-finals now, so there will be no messing about.''

Carlos Tevez is expected to start, having returned from a brief break in Argentina to a storm of controversy over his comments in a radio interview suggesting he was unhappy at Ferguson's claims he had rejected a contract offer and there was a good chance he would leave Old Trafford when his loan period ends in May.

Ferguson is unlikely to give a public airing to his private comments, although it is has probably been pointed out to Tevez that his manager actually said it was an attempt to bring forward talks on the South American's future that have stalled, not the negotiations themselves.

Tevez's trusted adviser Kia Joorabchian has been desperately trying to dampen down the impact of his client's comments - which in itself suggests remaining at Old Trafford is the striker's preferred option.

But it is now clear the longer an impasse between the two parties remains, the more scope there will be for speculation and therefore further friction.

In the current economic climate, it is difficult to see how United chief executive David Gill could justify shelling out a reported 30million 'transfer' fee to seal Tevez's permanent registration - given the 24-year-old has quite often found himself left out of Ferguson's starting line-up.

Even if he returns to last season's sparkling form, Tevez is unlikely to dislodge Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney from the United first-choice line-up.

Vidic, however, does not believe a distinction can be made between Ferguson's best side and the rest.

Even Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck got their names on the scoresheet at St Mary's last weekend. Rafael, Darren Fletcher and Tomasz Kuszczak - who are all set to start at Pride Park - can hardly be dismissed either.

''We have a lot of quality players,'' said Vidic. ''I would never say the players who have been involved in the Carling Cup are not as good as the others.

''The manager picks his team, and that is it. I have played most Carling Cup matches - it may be that some who were in the FA Cup game won't play tomorrow.

''The main thing is young players have come into the Carling Cup team and showed their character. No matter who the manager picks, Derby know they will be taking on a very good team.''

The midlands outfit should also be aware United will not take them lightly.

They may be under-achieving and may have almost been on the end of a pretty major shock themselves on Saturday, before fighting back to beat non-league Forest Green in the FA Cup. But Derby remain opponents to be respected.

''We cannot get drawn into thinking Derby may be a good side or a bad one,'' said Vidic. ''The opposition will always want to play well against Manchester United.''

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