Nemanja Vidic, the Manchester United captain, has confirmed that he is on course for a return to action at the start of next season. Vidic ruptured his cruciate ligament during December's Champions League defeat to Basle.
The 30-year-old was immediately ruled out for the remainder of the campaign. Although there were suggestions he may be back sooner, in an interview with the official United website he has said his target is pre-season training.
"My recovery is going well," Vidic said. "Obviously the projection was that I would be ready for the next season. I am on schedule and will hopefully start training again in July."
Vidic has been confined to gym work during the early weeks of his rehabilitation, although that will be stepped up as the months go by this spring and summer. In the meantime, the Serb has been reduced to a watching brief as United attempt a record 20th league title.
United deserve to be favourites to win the title, Vidic emphasised. "I've had the belief from the beginning and if you look at the schedule of the games we have left to play I would like to say we are the favourites," he said. "We still have to win the nine games and need to be focused.
"We believed from the beginning and have the confidence but we have nine Champions League final games now I would say. It's all in our hands. We have to focus and give our best. All the players are ready to perform which is a good sign and a positive thing for the nine games ahead."
Vidic has been heartened by recent performances as United opened up a lead at the top of the Premier League table. And while he accepts Wayne Rooney's 27-goal contribution to United's campaign has been crucial, Vidic feels Antonio Valencia has been the key man.
"He's a great player to play with," he said. "First of all he's a team player who works hard for the team and makes a difference up front.
"He's done it so many times this season and it seems like he's made a step up and improved. I would say he is our best player this season.
"There are one or two others, like Wazza's had a great season and has scored a lot of goals. But Antonio has done really well. It's important he's fit and plays all the games because we need him at this time of the season."