Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes insists Lewis Ferguson is one player he simply cannot leave out of his side.
The Dons midfielder highlighted his importance to the side with a man-of-the-match display in Saturday’s 3-0 win against Kilmarnock.
The 20-year-old’s performance came days after he scored the only goal of the game in his side’s 1-0 win at Hamilton following his return from suspension.
The Dons continue their rehabilitation from a confidence-draining 4-0 home defeat to Celtic a week ago, which Ferguson missed due to his ban, and his manager believes his absence was a major factor in the manner of the loss to the Hoops.
McInnes said: “Lewis plays every game when available for me as I can’t leave him out and I don’t intend to. You forget his age at times but he keeps getting better and better.
“I don’t think we lose in the manner we did to Celtic if he is in the team. He is aggressive, cares and makes tackles.
“Lewis had to pick and choose his battles against Kilmarnock’s three man midfield but when we went 4-3-3 you could see his power, drive and tenacity which is key for me and the team.”
Ferguson’s all-action display against Killie keeps the Dons in fourth place in the Premiership, one point behind third-placed Motherwell and McInnes has backed his side to prove they are best of the rest by claiming third spot this season.
He said: “We can’t ignore the Celtic game but we have beaten the two teams around us, Motherwell and Kilmarnock, 3-0 and won at Hamilton which is normally a difficult venue for us.
“We are a decent side. I still think we are a good bit off Celtic and Rangers at the minute but we are capable of winning games in this league and hopefully we can go on a winning run.”
Ross County stand between the Dons and a maximum return of nine points from their three games following the Celtic loss and the Aberdeen manager believes his side can head to Victoria Park with confidence this weekend.
He said: “It won’t be easy at County. If we can go into the next break with nine points, and we still have a lot to do to get that, it will give us a lot of satisfaction after the Celtic game.”