Perhaps the best sight of all pre-season for Manchester United fans came when Nemanja Vidić lined up in the heart of defence against Valerenga.
New signing Shinji Kagawa has impressed but it will have been Vidić’s first game back since rupturing his cruciate knee ligaments in United’s disastrous Champions League group-stage exit at the hands of Basel that has cheered them most.
The Old Trafford faithful have been heartened by the news Lucas Moura is likely to become the latest addition to the squad, but it is the Serb who could be the most important player in United’s bid to regain the Premier League title this season.
Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand formed a good makeshift partnership in Vidic’s absence but costly errors from the pair in the 4-4 draw with Everton at Old Trafford arguably cost United the title.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men should be commended for taking the title race to the last minute of the season with their captain and best player missing for the whole second half of the campaign – just imagine what might have happened had Vidic not been injured?
It would be interesting to see how Manchester City would have fared with Gareth Barry at centre-back, like United had to do when Michael Carrick was deployed there when United’s injury crisis deepened.
Hopefully Vidić gets back to his very best soon, because if he does then United will be very much the team to fear.
Quality England goalkeepers are very rare to find, but with Joe Hart currently England’s number one, and he has superb back-up in the form of Jack Butland.
Over this Olympic period, Butland has become Britain’s most-wanted and despite not being able to help Team GB secure a medal in London, there will be plenty of interest in him before the transfer window closes.
It is just a shame for England that we are celebrating the emergence of a huge young talent that does not influence a game at the other end – something we urgently need.
The 19-year-old Birmingham City shot stopper was watched in a game for Cheltenham Town last season by no less than 52 scouts from top Premier League clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool.
And having impressed at the Under-20 World Cup, the Olympic Games, and in training in front of the world’s media in Kracow, Butland has a taste for being tested by the best.
He needs to satisfy himself with regular football but he may not have to drop down as far as he did last season with many eager to sign him.
But hopefully, like many promising keepers in the past, he will not end up warming the bench which is a worry considering last season he was unable to even gain that privilege at Birmingham.
At such a young age, England are now spoilt for choice in terms of world-class keepers.
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