INSPIRATIONAL defender Nemanja Vidic is expected to return to Manchester United’s starting line-up for the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Sunderland.
The 32-year-old was not even on the bench for United’s FA Cup third round defeat to Swansea City on Sunday.
But with the Red Devils needing a morale-boosting result at the Stadium of Light, the classy Serbian has been told to expect an immediate recall.
United boss David Moyes finds himself under scrutiny after back-to-back defeats for the club at Old Trafford – the club has not lost three games in a row since 2001.
And Moyes is looking to field the strongest side available to him at Sunderland, to prevent that happening.
As well as Vidic, instant recalls are expected for first-choice goalkeeper David de Gea and skipper and left-back Patrice Evra, after both were rested for the Swansea game.
Tyneside-born midfielder Michael Carrick should also return to the side, while utility man Phil Jones has a chance of being involved after missing the last four games with a knee injury.
Moyes’ main problems remain up front, with fitness concerns over Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Marouane Fellaini and Nani are thought to have no chance of being involved, while Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Young and Rafael da Silva are doubts.
Fabio da Silva is starting a three-match ban after his red card against Swansea.
By contrast, Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has almost a full squad to choose from, with only Keiren Westwood and Carlos Cuellar definitely out.
Poyet was short of three centre-halves for Sunday’s FA Cup game against Carlisle United but all three – John O’Shea, Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge – are expected to be available for selection for the visit of the reigning Premier League champions.
He told the Echo: “John’s shoulder problem is now healed and he is fine.
“Valentin had a problem with his back after the Aston Villa game which meant he couldn’t really train for three days but he is fine too.
“And Modibo Diakite had a tightness in his groin which has sorted itself out now – so whereas for the Carlisle game I only had one centre-half, Wes Brown, I’ve now got four to choose from.
“We have virtually a full-strength squad and we were able to rest quite a few players, the way the Carlisle game worked out, so we have no excuses in that direction for the visit of Man United.
“We just have to go out and make sure we perform.”