Nemanja Vidic has described claims earlier this season that central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand was finished as a top-flight force as 'nonsense'.
With a troublesome back problem restricting appearances for the previous three seasons, his England place taken away by Fabio Capello and a renewed threat at Manchester United following the arrival of Phil Jones, it was thought this season could be 33-year-old Ferdinand's last at Old Trafford.
However, Vidic is confident those assessments will prove to be incorrect, and said: "He is a very important player, not just this year but over the past years and he has done very well over the last few months."
And a recent series of outstanding performances from Ferdinand - typified by his well timed tackle on Ayegbeni Yakubu that denied the Nigerian a certain goal at Blackburn on Monday - have apparently proved Vidic's point.
"At the beginning of the season there were a lot of people questioning Rio, asking whether he could do what he did in the past, can he play, is he finished?" Vidic told Press Association Sport. "This was nonsense. Rio has hunger and now he has proved people they are wrong."
Ferdinand is one of the foundations upon which United's latest Barclays Premier League title challenge has been built.
Yet it all seemed so unlikely when Vidic was carried off on a stretcher with ruptured cruciate ligaments against Basle in December as United crashed out of the Champions League.
Already trailing a rampant Manchester City in the league, with Wayne Rooney and David de Gea among the other more notable figures struggling for form, it was hard to see what positives would emerge from the wreckage of a devastating European exit.
Less than four months on, United are now five points clear of City, Rooney has 28 goals and De Gea has made a succession of vital saves that have ensured the Red Devils have taken maximum advantage of City's slump.
Vidic is still missing of course, but the Serbian is taking pride in his team-mate's achievements, and insisted: "I always believed we would challenge for the title," he said. "It doesn't matter who is out. Manchester United never depend on one player. That is why Manchester United are so special."