Despite the looming departure of Nemanja Vidic in the summer, David Moyes is confident that Manchester United already have the right tools to lead the club defensively over the coming years.
Vidic may also not be the only experienced defender to leave Old Trafford at the end of the season. Rio Ferdinand is expected by many to retire, whilst Patrice Evra is believed to be favouring a return to France. However, it seems the manager would prefer to put his faith in the existing squad, rather than expensively dip into the transfer market.
Speaking at a press conferenc on Friday, Moyes confidently stated: “I think we have got [a replacement for Vidic] in the club already”. He added, “Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are already here”, describing the trio as “three really good centre halves.”.
The three certainly have the credentials to succeed, with six Premier League titles between them already, as well as 49 international caps for England and Northern Ireland. Moyes believes that playing in the centre of defence is now the hardest position in football, especially with forward players like Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero to contend with in the Premier League, but hopes his young trio will be a success:
“With the movement of the centre forwards and the quality of the centre forwards, playing a young centre-half is very difficult. To nurture one along and bring them into the team… we are trying to do that. We will give Smalling, Jones and Evans those opportunities to show what they are capable of.”
Moyes acknowledged that losing Vidic would be tough, though he remained defiant about the future:
“… football clubs keep changing. Everything keeps changing and we keep moving on. If there was ever a club who proved that, it’s this club. That’s what has happened at the right times. I’m hoping the young ones who we’ve already given games to and grounding will step up to the plate. I hope they will become young centre halves with lots of experience, who can be here for the next five or six years. That’s the idea.”
The Scot also remained coy about whether he would be attempting to bring in additional defensive bodies, simply stating “we’ll look at what we need in the summer”.
United will host Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday, which see will the return of the club’s highly respected former coach Rene Meulensteen for the first time as an opposition manager. Jonny Evans will almost definitely be missing after failing to recover from a calf strain, though Phil Jones has made good progress since suffering a concussion against Stoke. Marouane Fellaini is set to miss out having suffered a further injury setback, picking up a groin problem on top of his existing wrist issues.