Nemanja Vidic admits he could have helped Phil Jones and Chris Smalling more at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Nemanja Vidic believes that injuries to himself and Rio Ferdinand towards the end of their Manchester United careers had negative implications for the progression of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

The latter pair arrived at the club ahead of the 2010/11 season and spent their early days as back-up for the veteran pair.

However, injury problems for Vidic and Ferdinand over the next few campaigns saw the likes of Jones, Smalling and Jonny Evans fill in when needed before of taking over defensive duties completely when the two departed the club in 2014.

And Vidic, speaking in an interview with ESPN, claimed that Jones and Smalling could have enjoyed a smoother, more rounded development had he been on the pitch for longer during his last few years at Old Trafford.

“It didn’t help them because they didn’t have a more experienced player to pick their brain when they played,” he said. “It’s not just about playing together with an experienced player.”

“If Phil Jones is 24 and playing alongside someone who is 34, the player who is 34 years old is using his brain more than the 24-year-old

“To rise, he needs to be encouraged a bit and made to feel comfortable in his shoes.

“If you lose that belief and think: ‘Should I be here, or here, or be here, then it’s difficult to play.

“So that didn’t help them. Even if they do something bad, you say: ‘OK, he’s 24 but where was I to help him?”

This is something of a heartfelt admission from Vidic, who understands better than most the beneficial qualities of playing next to someone with a greater feel for the position, a more intuitive understanding of how to read a game at such furious pace that would, over time, rub off on the less experienced partner.

But to suggest that he, along with Vidic, lent them no help at all is absurd. Jones and Smalling had four years to imbibe lessons on the training ground and played a number of games next to both of them under the watch of the greatest manager of the modern era.

In the wider scheme of things, there aren’t matter platforms from which to establish yourself at a big club, yet supporters – four years on – continue to call for them to be replaced.

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