Manchester: Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced his Manchester United squad is strong enough to cope with the loss of centre-back Nemanja Vidic for the rest of the season.
Club captain Vidic damaged knee ligaments during the midweek 2-1 Champions League defeat in Basel that ensured three-times European champions United exited the competition at the group stage.
Ferguson, speaking ahead of United's Premier League meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers, confirmed Serbia international Vidic would see a specialist shortly but had no hope of playing any further part in the campaign.
But while the United manager conceded the loss of Vidic was a major blow, he insisted the reigning English champions, currently five points behind leaders Manchester City, had the resources to cope with the defender's absence.
"We thought the Vidic injury was a bad one and when you saw the replays you knew it was a bad one," Ferguson said here on Friday.
"So he's out for the season. He sees the specialist on Monday, also to map out the progress once he has the operation.
"It won't be immediate because the swelling has to go down, so that's a bit of a blow."
Ferguson added: "Of course it's a loss. We missed him when he was out for about five weeks at the start of the season.
"He's such a dominant character, in particular his defending in the penalty box which is always a strong feature of his game.
"It does mean we'll have to choose between Jonny Evans and Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. We have the options there. And of course (Rio) Ferdinand.
"Ferdinand had his best game of the season on Wednesday, I thought he was tremendous and that kind of experience from Rio with one of the younger ones I think will be a good combination," Ferguson insisted.
The Scot's largely youthful side came in for criticism following the Basel defeat, notably from former United captain Roy Keane.
But Ferguson defended his rising stars, insisting they were vital to the club's future.
"They've achieved many great things so far, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have played for their country, Danny Welbeck has played for his country, these players will be the foundation of the club in a few years' time.
"They got a nasty experience on Wednesday (against Basel), but they know they have the trust of myself and the coaches and they will not be hounded because of one bad performance, there’s no question about that.
"And time will prove us right."
Defeat in Switzerland meant United finished third in their group and so dropped into the second-tier Europa League which, like the Champions League, resumes in the new year.
Ferguson's comments immediately after the Basel game that the Europa League were his side's "penalty" for not qualifying for the latter stages of the Champions League brought an angry response from UEFA president Michel Platini.
But Ferguson insisted he had not meant to denigrate the Europa League, which he added United would now try to win this season.
"It's a good competition and it's a strong competition. You see some of the clubs left in it. It's got to be a strong competition.
"The point I made was it's a "punishment" for us to enter the Europa League only in the sense that for 20 years this club has only thought about the Champions League.
"We've been in three (Champions League) finals in the last four years, so it's not a slight against the Europa League because it's a competition you want to win and we're in it, we'll try and win it."