Do United already have replacements for Vidic and Ferdinand?

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could form the spine of Manchester United's defence for several years.

In recent years Manchester United have seen a legendary manager slip into retirement, prominent professionals trade the playing field for the tactics room, and even European competition bid them farewell.

With the closing of this Premier League season, another Manchester United dynasty also came to an end: The celebrated central defensive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with Rio retiring and Nemanja jetting to the San Siro.

The duo’s suffering last season was well documented; the consistently high standards which won fifteen varied titles over nine years had vanished. However, experienced International centre-halves are not at all easy to replace.

Enter, World Cup bound Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

The pair was signed a season apart by Sir Alex Ferguson with the future in mind. Smalling progressed from non-league football to build a reputation with Fulham as United fought of interest from Arsenal to get him.

Jones, reportedly impressed Ferguson with commitment and leadership skills shown playing for Blackburn in the centre of defence, and sealed his big money move not long after.

Both players have complimentary characteristics. Jones is strong, hard in the tackle and quick along the ground, while Smalling is tall and decent in the air.

Often played out of position, with dynamic Jones sometimes employed in holding midfield and lofty Smalling peculiarly deployed down the right, all they seemingly need is playing time together in the heart of the defence.

United are already going through a tough transition, therefore it is perhaps the perfect opportunity to stick these two in their preferred positions for the start of the season, it is unlikely to be any worse than their first fifteen games last season.

These partnerships do take time to form, but they do need to be given a chance to develop.

Look at Arsenal pair Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny as an example. A season ago, both were individually derided for unforced errors and a lack of leadership but now, they are arguably the joint best defensive partnership in the league.

A defensive partnership performing every week in the league, if performing well, would surely translate onto the international stage.

If Manchester United takes a confident, progressive approach, doused with heavy doses of patience, they could have a successful defensive base to take them into the next decade. Add to that the possible acquisition of Luke Shaw, and you have 75% of England's backline for years to come.

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