Football: Vidic aims to be back for new season

Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic believes he is on target to return to football at the start of the next English season.

The 30-year-old central defender ruptured his cruciate ligament during United's shock Champions League defeat by Basel in December and was immediately ruled out of the rest of the season.

Although there was speculation he might return before the end of the current campaign, Serbia international Vidic told United's website on Wednesday he was aiming for pre-season training.

"My recovery is going well," he said.

"Obviously the projection was I would be ready for the next season. I am on schedule and will hopefully start training again in July."

Despite his absence, reigning champions United have maintained their push for a 20th English title and the Premier League leaders are currently four points clear of second-placed Manchester City ahead of their local rivals' match at home to Chelsea on Wednesday.

Looking at United's run in, Vidic said he expected Sir Alex Ferguson's side to again finish as champions.

"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."

Meanwhile Vidic, while acknowledging Wayne Rooney's 27 goals for United, said midfielder Antonio Valencia had been the club's best player this term.

"He's a great player to play with," Vidic 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 (Rooney) has 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."