Ferdinand hails United's young defenders - But is he right?

Old Trafford Interior

Ex-Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand believes the club will be fine with their next crop of defenders.

Following the news that Patrice Evra had left Manchester United for Juventus, Rio Ferdinand took to Twitter to declare that "the old guard has gone".

The players to which he was referring were himself, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra.  But for the United fans worried by that fact the Queens Park Rangers defender added, "the young lads are ready.  I believe they will now blossom."

So is he right?  Here we take a look at the defenders who could be tasked with keeping the ball out in Louis van Gaal's first season at Old Trafford...although we still expect a new arrival or two to cover that area.

Phil Jones

Having made headlines in the Premier League as a teenager, Sir Alex Ferguson made a move for a player who some suggested could be the next Duncan Edwards.  And it was that versatility to Jones' game that may have hindered rather than helped his progress.

Many believe Jones should be an out-and-out centre-back, but he has regularly played as a right-back and in a midfield position, preventing him from benefiting from the consistency needed to excel at the top level.  

There is still the time, but Louis van Gaal will need to be persuaded quickly that Jones can be the man to play at the heart of his defence.

Chris Smalling

Things just have not worked out for Smalling since his move from Fulham.  Tipped as one of the best defender of his generation, he is arguably the furthest from a finished article when compared with Jones and Jonny Evans.

On the right side of defence he bombs forward and offers more security than Rafael.  But with talk of a potential swap deal involving him and Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen, not many United fans would feel they were getting a bad deal were that to come off.

Jonny Evans

An excellent defender who often kept either Vidic or Ferdinand out of the team in recent times, Evans is more than capable of becoming the next great defender at Old Trafford.

He will need to develop a long-term partnership, be that with Jones, Smalling or a new addition, but there is no question Evans will be given plenty of chances under van Gaal.  Of all the defenders at United, he is likely to benefit the most from the departure of the old guard in that he can now become a leader in the side.

Luke Shaw

The big-money signing from Southampton is now undeniably United's first-choice left-back, and he has shown in recent times that he is more than up to the task.  

It will be a step up from what he experienced at St Mary's, but there is no reason he cannot blossom into one of the best full-backs in Europe under van Gaal's guidance.

Rafael

The Brazilian right-back continues to divide opinion.  He always gives his all, but he can still be guilty of moments of madness that put his teammates in trouble.

By now he should have cut that out of his game, but on too many occasions he still jumps into challenges or simply appears to be acting before he thinks.

Prodigiously gifted, he should benefit from van Gaal, and could excel as a wing-back if the Dutchman does adopt a 5-3-2 formation at the club.

Michael Keane

Michael Keane has already spoken of his desire to impress his new manager this season, and he has the perfect chance to do that on tour this summer.

Now 21, he will be hoping to be given more chances following a series of successful loan spells. And by the end of the campaign, he could actually have found himself ahead of Smalling in the race for a starting-berth.

 

Which of United's younger defenders do you think will prove to be the most important next season?

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