Nemanja Vidic desperate for Rio Ferdinand to be fit

Nemanja Vidic is crossing his fingers central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand will be fit for Monday's top-of-the-table showdown with Arsenal.

Ferdinand was forced off five minutes into the second half of last night's Champions League draw with Valencia after experiencing discomfort in his hamstrings.

Sir Alex Ferguson is confident his prompt action in replacing the 31-year-old with Chris Smalling on a freezing night at Old Trafford has given Ferdinand the best possible chance of being fit.

And Ferdinand himself tweeted today: "Hammy feels ok, treatment over the next couple of days to try + get ready for the game monday."

However, for a player who has experienced too many injuries for comfort over the past couple of years, nothing can be taken for granted, especially if the latest problem is connected to his troublesome back.

As someone who has benefited from playing alongside Ferdinand for much of his five years with the Red Devils, Vidic knows just how important it would be to have his long-time partner next to him against Arsene Wenger's men.

"Fingers crossed he will be okay," said Vidic.

"Against Arsenal we need to have experienced players on the pitch, especially Rio.

"I hope he will be fine and be ready because that is a very important game."

Although United have come through the biggest of matches without star players, such is the incisiveness of Arsenal's attack at the moment - especially in-form Samir Nasri - that Ferguson's players will have to be on their guard if they are to gain a victory that would sweep them back to the top of the Premier League table and put them in command of their own destiny.

With a trip to Chelsea following a week later, Vidic realises there is no time to think about Christmas festivities just yet and Paul Scholes' likely absence with a groin problem just focuses minds even more.

"Everyone looks forward to the big games and this is one of the biggest," he said.

"In fact I would say it is the biggest game in this part of the season.

"At the moment Arsenal are playing good football and are top of the league. It would be nice if we could win the game and go above them.

"We are all aware it is a long season. You can already see how many teams are dropping points.

"It is too early to start talking about winning this one game giving us an advantage. But it would be nice to do it."

Vidic certainly cannot complain at the results that have been achieved during his first season as skipper.

There might have been too many draws, especially earlier in the season, but United remain unbeaten and now have a game in hand following the postponement of Saturday's trip to Blackpool.

"It is not going badly for us," he said.

"We have got to the second stage of the season and we are doing well in the league.

"There are a few details to improve but we just have to keep going."

Much like Nani 12 months ago, Anderson has suddenly shown a consistency of form that has largely been lacking since his arrival from FC Porto three years ago.

The Brazilian was a formidable presence in midfield against Valencia, and even managed a rare goal to ensure United clinched top spot and, in theory, a favourable pairing in next Friday's knockout round draw.

As holders Inter Milan only qualified as runners-up behind Tottenham, they are potential opponents - raising the prospect of Ferguson renewing rivalries with Rafael Benitez - as are AC Milan.

However, favourites Barcelona and a Real Madrid outfit for whom Jose Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo are now the most significant figures, have been avoided, as have Bayern Munich, who dumped United out at the quarter-final stage last term.

The one disappointment was a failure to keep a sixth straight clean sheet that would have confirmed United as the first team to go through an entire group phase without conceding a goal.

"We wanted to break the record," shrugged Vidic.

"That is a normal thing when you have kept five clean sheets.

"But the most important thing is that we finished where we wanted; first in the group.

"Hopefully now we will avoid some of the big teams, which helps us in the competition overall."