Manchester United: A bright defensive future
Manchester United had one of the best centre back pairings in the world a few years ago, with Ferdinand and Vidic anchoring the defence. In recent seasons though, injuries have forced Sir Alex to be creative with his defence at times.
Fortunately, United have five promising young defenders ready to step up now and in the future.
Phil JonesA product of Blackburn’s youth academy, Phil Jones has been used by United at right back, centre back and even midfield. Youthful exuberance sometimes leads to costly mistakes, but with more experience, that part of his game will fix itself. He’s a natural leader and has already been tabbed as a future England and United captain. It is unclear where his final position will be, but at only 20, his future at United is bright.
Jonny EvansThe Northern Ireland international filled in for Nemanja Vidic after his season-ending injury and performed better than anyone expected. A strong tackler and enough pace to deal with most forwards, the run he got in the team last season was tremendous for his personal growth. A capable deputy, look for him to slot in the defence if there is another long term injury.
Chris SmallingThe young centre back made a thrilling rise from non-league Maidstone United to Fulham then to United and wasted no time in proving his worth. An imposing figure at 6’4, he is strong and unafraid to attack the ball in the air like all good centre backs. Playing and practising alongside Ferdinand will only lead to him improving his game. He’s only 22 and looks to be the long-term replacement in defence.
Alexander BüttnerThe Dutchman arrived from Vitesse Arnhem just this past week and may appear off the bench at Fulham this afternoon. Left backs are notoriously hard to find and hopefully Sir Alex has found a gem in the rough. Büttner’s arrival means that there is cover for Evra, but more importantly, competition for Evra. Büttner played further up the field in his youth days, so he has the natural attacking instinct that allows him to get crosses in the box and even score goals.
RafaelPerhaps the closest of all to cementing a position in the starting eleven, Rafael is an exciting player. He was recently handed a a four-year extension which is a sign of the confidence Sir Alex has in the young Brazilian. Rafael has also taken the number two this year, traditionally for right backs. Gary Neville was a tremendous right back and Rafael will look to preform to those standards.
Calling all United fans: Do you agree with Alex's views? Do you think Manchester United will have a strong defence in the future? Do you think they need to strengthen their defence now? Whatever your views are we'd love to hear from you.