Nemanja Vidic admits Manchester United’s defence of the league title is over following their 3-1 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.
The Reds had already lost six times this season ahead of their trip to Stamford Bridge, and a Samuel Eto’o hat-trick inflicted loss number seven. This is a far cry from Sir Alex Ferguson’s farewell campaign last term, when United lost just five times on their way to finishing 11 points clear of Manchester City to claim a record-extending 20th title.
But following their reverse in the capital, the champions sit in seventh position and are a staggering 14 points behind leaders Arsenal. And whilst David Moyes insists he will not give up on winning the league, Vidic, who was sent off against Chelsea, claims the main focus for him and his team-mates must now be to secure a top-four finish.
“We are too far behind and we have now to focus on the top three or four,” the 32-year-old defender told Sky Sports. “We have to be positive. It’s not going to be easy; we have to now fight to achieve the [UEFA] Champions League. We have to stay positive and stick together and work hard. With a bit of luck hopefully we can achieve that.”
The problem United have is that every team above them are showing no signs of slowing down. With the exception of Liverpool, who were held to a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa, four of the top six won at the weekend, whilst Everton will go eight points clear of Moyes’s side if they can collect three points at West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
Attention will now turn to the League Cup, when the Reds will look to avenge a 2-1 first leg defeat to Sunderland to progress to the final where, barring a miracle, they will face neighbours City at Wembley in March. The champions return to Premier League action a week on Tuesday, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Cardiff City visit Old Trafford.
Vidic, meanwhile, will miss both of the above games, as well as the trip to Stoke City, following his controversial red card at Stamford Bridge. Further ahead, the Serbian international could soon be departing the club for pastures new, with his existing contract set to expire at the end of the season and his agent indicating a fresh challenge could be on the cards for the centre-half, who has been in Manchester since January 2006.