Nemanja Vidic never had any doubt Manchester United would shrug off his season-ending absence and make a strong defence of their Barclays Premier League title.
When Vidic was stretchered off with ruptured cruciate ligaments against Basle in December as United crashed out of the Champions League, there were many who believed their entire campaign would be a disaster. However, less than four months on, United are now five points clear at the top of the table.
Speaking exclusively to Press Association Sport, the Serbian, who is still sidelined, is taking pride in his team-mate's achievements. He said: "I always believed we would challenge for the title."
He continued: "It doesn't matter who is out. Manchester United never depend on one player. If you look at the past, players have left and fans have said how are we going to cope? But the manager is the best at replacing players and the team still win titles and trophies. That is why Manchester United are so special."
It was not part of the plan for Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck to be exposed quite as often as they have been. Yet, from their introduction during the Community Shield in August, the quintet have given the impression of relishing responsibility.
It is this that has helped United overcome their massive injury problems, and also provide such hope for the future.
"We didn't expect the young players would play so many games and have such influence on the team," said Vidic. "This is a great plus for the club.
"Obviously we have had some injuries over the past year, which is another difficult thing we have gone through, but we have coped and been very competitive with Manchester City. Now we are at the top of the league and have a big chance to win it."
The frustration for Vidic is that he has been reduced to a watching brief. He is making good progress in his recovery, although he is determined not to push it and risk a setback, hence suggestions he might re-appear before the end of this season were always a non-starter.
"I never thought about coming back," he said. "I am lucky, the manager and the physios and the doctor weren't trying to beat the record. They didn't want me to come back in five months. There would be no point rushing to play one or two games. As soon as I got the injury and had the operation, I knew I wouldn't be back. I am just focussed on next season."