Sir Alex Ferguson feels Nemanja Vidic could have an important role to play for Manchester United this weekend.
The Serbian centre-half is expected to return to the Red Devils' starting XI on Saturday, following a recent bout of flu, when United play host to Aston Villa.
His return has come as welcome relief to Ferguson, who has seen his defensive options decimated in recent weeks.
England international midfielder Michael Carrick is likely to be asked to fill in at the heart of the back four once again against Villa, but Vidic's presence will bring some much-needed security to the back four.
With Villa likely to field at least one of Emile Heskey and John Carew at Old Trafford, as they look to muscle in on United's title tilt, Ferguson knows he will need a physical presence to help counter their threat.
"Nemanja is particularly important against Villa because they do cross the ball a lot," said Ferguson.
"If they were to play Heskey and Carew up front you would have a formidable task trying to deal with them because they are such big lads.
"Vidic is the one player who can cope with that and we are delighted he is back."
United will be looking to keep pace with, or maybe even overtake, Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table on Saturday.
They sit two points adrift of Carlo Ancelotti's Blues heading into the latest round of fixtures and Ferguson is convinced his side can mount another sustained assault on the summit this term.
"It is a tough league," observed the United chief.
"When Chelsea beat us last month we were unfortunate but it put them five clear and, quite rightly, they received all the plaudits. People said they had an unassailable lead.
"Then last week they were outfought and outplayed by Manchester City, who deserved to win that match.
"It just shows the kind of league we are in. Points get dropped.
"But what I have always said and maintain now is that if we are within touching distance of top spot on 1st January, we will have a great chance."