Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has hit back at critics who have written off defensive partner Rio Ferdinand.
The 81-cap England international is no longer an automatic selection at Old Trafford after manager Sir Alex Ferguson suggested the centre back had lost the pace that made him one of the world's best.
However, the Scot suggested Ferdinand would be able to adapt his game to stay at the top level for club and country, and defensive partner Vidic was quick to agree with his boss after the pair helped keep Sunderland at bay in Saturday's 1-0 win for the champions.
"When you look at what has happened to Rio over the last few weeks, we have to remember this is a player who played in most of the big games last season, helped us win the Premier League title and reach the Champions League final, and yet after one game people are saying he is not good enough any more," said Vidic.
"I think this is wrong and Rio showed that [against Sunderland]. Sometimes when you have been at the top a long time like Rio has, people judge you on your age and they are waiting for one bad game to say: 'Oh, he's finished.' But the way Rio played was the perfect way to show he is not finished.
"He showed strength of character. He showed he still has the quality and ability to play at the top level. He showed class, he showed determination, as well as his ability to help the players around him."
Whilst youngsters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have forced their way into the reckoning after early season injuries to both, Vidic believes experience remains a key component that the 'veterans' have over their young rivals.
It certainly helped the pair adapt when Ferguson asked them to play on opposite sides at the weekend, with the duo enjoying a great game as the pressure is kept on local rivals Manchester City at the top of the table.
"The manager decided to play me on the right and Rio on the left. That didn't cause us a problem. Rio had a great game," he added.
"I think his experience is important, especially when you have young players in the team and the defence is changing all the time. I just hope Rio stays fit because he is a player who can help the young players."
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