Sir Alex Ferguson will not rush Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic

Captain was surprise omission from Champions League tie against Real Madrid

Sir Alex Ferguson insists Nemanja Vidic is getting back to his best.

The Manchester United skipper was a surprise omission from Ferguson's starting line-up to face Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Instead, Jonny Evans got the job of partnering Rio Ferdinand in central defence, with the Northern Irishman adding to his blossoming reputation with a solid display.

Yet it is clear Vidic still has a major role to play.

His performance against Everton last weekend was a throwback to the Serbian's best days.

But after virtually 16 months out of action and two lots of major knee surgery, Ferguson is happy for Vidic to inch his way back.

"Steadily, he's getting there," said Ferguson.

"He was fantastic against Everton and I had my doubts over whether I was doing the right thing or not.

"But, in my mind, three days' recovery was a risk, so I stuck by what we've been doing with him.

"We've managed it for a while now. When Nemanja came back from his latest injury he'd only played about eight games in 18 months.

"That's a long time out and not a lot of games."

And, in a further indication of why Rio Ferdinand is not being considered for an England recall by Roy Hodgson, Ferguson underlined his belief that the same situation exists with his other experienced central defender.

"It would have been the same with Rio," said Ferguson.

"If he'd played on Sunday I would have had my doubts playing him on Wednesday."

It means Evans could now be regarded as a first-choice, having started 22 times this season, one more than Ferdinand.

"Jonny is only 25 but he's emerged in the last year as a real top defender," said Ferguson.

"His form has been fantastic.

"If you can get consistency off young players you are on the right track and Jonny has shown great consistency in the last year.

"Last season it wasn't until Ferdinand and Evans played regularly that we got a run going."

As the United boss also has the option of selecting Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the same positions, he looks to be presiding over another period of transition, whilst at the same time competing for major honours.

It is not always easy, of course.

Trying to convince anyone they remain a central figure when they are picked to play against Reading in the FA Cup on Monday having missed out at the Bernabeu is not particularly easy.

Yet that is what Ferguson must do as United hunt down a quarter-final place.

"It's not easy to rotate but it has to be done," he said.

"The biggest responsibility lies with me to pick the right team.

"In the final part of this season we have a lot of important games.

"After Monday we have a league game against QPR, then Norwich before Madrid again. Then we'll use the full squad."

With Paul Scholes ruled out for another two weeks with a knee injury, Tom Cleverley and Anderson could both be included in central midfield.

Other changes could include the return of Javier Hernandez, whilst Nani and Ashley Young provide alternatives out wide against a Reading side that has lost just one of their last seven games.

"Reading are a team who are showing plenty of fighting qualities, as you would expect given they are down near the bottom," said Ferguson.

"We'll take nothing for granted. In the FA Cup you always expect the unexpected. You just hope you're not a casualty or a shock.

"I will make some changes but I don't think the incentive to get to the quarter-final is lost on any of the players.

"There is a good spirit and they're all contributing.

"Whatever side I pick we're expected to qualify."

PA

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border