Vidic boosted by healthier squad
Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic believes the Premier League leaders' improving injury situation will have a significant impact during the busy Christmas period.
United, who saw their advantage over second-placed Manchester City trimmed to four points over the weekend, host Newcastle on Wednesday and then face West Bromwich Albion before travelling to Wigan on January 1.
With such a hectic schedule, Vidic, who made his first start after three months out with a knee problem in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Swansea, knows it will be a major bonus to have a healthy squad.
Rio Ferdinand will be available again after being rested for the trip to Swansea, while Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa is set to return to training this week following a knee problem.
That leaves only Rafael da Silva, Nani and Anderson on the injured list, in stark contrast to the host of problems that plagued the opening months of United's campaign.
Vidic feels the increase in options are essential for United manager Alex Ferguson as his team try to hold onto their lead at the top heading into 2013.
"We now have three games in the next nine days," Vidic said. "Obviously we have a few players who are coming back from injury and they will be important for that period."
Newcastle eased the pressure on boss Alan Pardew with only their second victory in 12 games thanks to a 1-0 win against fellow strugglers QPR at the weekend to climb five points clear of the relegation zone.
Ferguson admits he is surprised to see Newcastle struggling towards the foot of the table, but the Scot was just as shocked to see Pardew's side challenge for a Champions League place last season.
He also revealed he knew little about Newcastle's impressive signings before they arrived in England.
"The new players they brought in caught us all by surprise. We didn't really know a lot about them," Ferguson said.
"I knew about (Demba) Ba, of course, but I didn't know anything about (Yohan) Cabaye or (Papiss) Cisse to be honest with you.
"They had fantastic seasons. Second time round, clubs are starting to analyse them a bit different, plus, more importantly, he's had some injuries.
"Cabaye's out until next year, (Cheick) Tiote is out to next year, he's had one or two important players injured and that does make a difference when you've not got a squad as strong as the likes of ourselves or City or Chelsea."
Newcastle winger Gabriel Obertan admits there is added incentive to do well on his latest return to Old Trafford.
The former France Under-21 international faces his former club keen to force his way back into Pardew's plans after overcoming a persistent toe injury.
Obertan failed to make an impression under Ferguson and was restricted to just 13 starts in two seasons before a £2 million switch to St James' Park in August 2011.
"It's always special to go back to an old club. I've still got friends there and it was a little weird the first time I returned, but now I'm used to it and we go there searching for three points," he said.
"There's always a bit of extra motivation when you play against your old team. It was the same for me against Bordeaux."
Obertan, who came on as a second-half substitute against QPR, added: "That win doesn't really change anything for us on Wednesday.
"After what we did last season people have high expectations of us. We know we'll have to work hard at Old Trafford. The pressure is still on us even after this win."