Vidic knows the value of Carrick

Carrick was handed a new contract by Sir Alex Ferguson this season

even though his form dipped far below his normal standards. The

29-year-old was also to blame for Manchester City’s FA Cup

semi-final matchwinner at Wembley last week when a stray pass

rolled kindly to Yaya Toure, who seized on the chance to grab the

only goal. However, Carrick was also one of the major influences

behind United’s Champions League quarter-final triumph over

Chelsea. And as Darren Fletcher will miss Tuesday’s semi-final

first-leg against Schalke, Vidic believes the former Tottenham

midfielder will be a key man. “I have always said that Michael

Carrick is an important player for us,” said the United skipper.

“He has such a big role for the team. He is that balance between

the defence and midfield and the midfield and forwards. “Over the

years he has done that dirty job well. Maybe it is not a great role

for the fans and media but we know how important he is for us.”

Vidic has not been at United long enough to recall surprise

semi-final defeats to Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayer

Leverkusen five years later. But they cost Ferguson’s

treble-winning side the second Champions League trophy he felt they

deserved. And as the Scot has already stated his belief that

United’s four final appearances is inadequate for a club of their

size, he will be exceptionally keen to avoid slipping on a third

German banana skin. Not that anyone at Old Trafford expects booking

a meeting with either Real Madrid or Barcelona is going to be easy.

Schalke are unbeaten in nine games since losing their opening group

encounter against Lyon in September and have been particularly

impressive in the knockout stages. They dispatched a Valencia side

who gave United two tough games earlier in the competition with the

minimum of fuss at the last-16 stage and then slammed seven goals

past holders Inter Milan during a two-legged quarter-final that

belied their mid-table status in the Bundesliga, nearer in points

terms to the bottom than the top. “We are pleased to be where we

are,” said Vidic. “I know we are the favourites but that doesn’t

mean anything. “Schalke scored five goals away from home against

Inter. You have to respect that. Any team you play at this stage of

the competition is not going to be easy.” Having drafted Javier

Hernandez into his starting line-up for the two Chelsea games, it

is anticipated Ferguson will stand by the Mexican. With Wayne

Rooney also certain of a place, it means only one of Nani and

Antonio Valencia can expect to be involved.