Former Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has been impressed by the club’s young defenders despite a faltering campaign.
Vidic, who captained the club from 2010 to 2014 after joining in 2006, said he felt the young defenders had coped admirably with the pressure of coming into a struggling side, especially one with the expectations of United.
Tim Fosu-Mensah is the latest in a long line of youngsters to man the United defence, joining the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Guillermo Varela, Donald Love and Joe Riley to impress, alongside the consistent Chris Smalling who Vidic says has matured into a fine centre-back.
The former Serbia international said it was particularly hard for youngsters to come into a struggling side at the back, due to the scrutiny that follows poor performances.
“I think it’s more difficult for defenders, especially when you have three or four of them playing together in the same match,” Vidic told MUTV.
“For the young players who come in up front, you need that energy, imagination, happiness… you can let them play and be more free, but, in defence, I think you need someone who can lead these young boys.
“United have always brought youngsters into the team and of course they have ability, they have shown that in the games they’ve played but, when you want to win the trophies, you have to patient with them.
“You have to give them the right matches, develop them slowly so you can think about keeping them there for many years.”
“It’s a longer process not just for the defenders but even for attackers,” he added.
“You have to be careful how you develop them. You have to accept that Manchester United always need to win trophies and when the club don’t, players have to accept some criticism and that can be hard for the younger ones to take.
“They need some experienced players to take that weight off their backs.”
And Vidic said Smalling had been just the sort of player they needed.
“I’ve always loved Chris. I love him because he’s a defender. His mentality is that he likes to defend,” said Vidic of his former team-mate.
“I believe he can still improve but he is physically strong and, as I said, he likes to defend which, for me, is very important.
“You don’t see many players nowadays who like to defend, there are not many in the world. That’s his big ability.”