Manchester United club captain Nemanja Vidic has quashed any suggestion by doubters that Rio Ferdinand is past his best.
With the imposing Serbian centre-back sidelined for the rest of the season, the former England captain has become a vocal point in the Red Devils back-four in his absence alongside Jonny Evans
Ferdinand has spent a large proportion of the past two seasons battling a persistent back injury that has restricted him to just 50 appearances in all competitions.
Not only this, but he lost his place in the England squad and critics had put the former Leeds United and West Ham star down as ‘over the hill.’
However, Vidic maintains his defensive partner is still in his prime after a series of assured performances at the back that has seen the Red Devils take a five point lead over rivals City.
"At the beginning of the season there were a lot of people questioning Rio (Ferdinand), asking whether he could do what he did in the past, can he play, is he finished?" Vidic said.
"This was nonsense. Rio has hunger and now he has proved people they are wrong.
"He is a very important player, not just this year but over the past years and he has done very well over the last few months."
The burly Serbian international has been the bedrock upon which Ferguson has built his sides in recent years, but when he ruptured his cruciate ligament in a Champions League match against Basle in December, many suggested United’s form would suffer.
Despite an early European exit, the Premier League champions form has been superb with a resurrected Ferdinand in the side.
Coupled with the emerging talents of David De Gea, who suffered an indifferent start to his career at Old Trafford, and the goal scoring feats of Wayne Rooney, the club has now moved five points clear at the summit of the Premier League table.
And despite not being on the playing field, Vidic is reveling in the success of his team mates.
"I always believed we would challenge for the title," he added.
"It doesn't matter who is out. Manchester United never depend on one player.
"If you look at the past, players have left and fans have said how are we going to cope? But the manager is the best at replacing players and the team still win titles and trophies.
"That is why Manchester United are so special."