Manchester United will lose Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, winners of a combined 11 Premier League titles, this summer with the esteemed duo both out of contract with the club. The latter, however, has urged the club’s hierarchy to keep faith in the current crop of centre-backs at Old Trafford, rather than spend lavishly on new recruits in the transfer window.
It was announced on Monday night that Ferdinand would be following Vidic out of the door, with it known for some months that the Serbian had agreed a free transfer to Inter Milan. The duo formed one of the most iconic defensive partnerships of their generation, playing a total of 755 games for Manchester United.
Given the vast experience that Manchester United are set to lose, the new manager - expected to be Louis van Gaal - would appear likely to invest in reinforcements in central defensive positions during the summer transfer window.
Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund has been linked with the club, as has Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay. Vidic, though, has backed either Chris Smalling or Phil Jones to feature alongside Jonny Evans and establish the next renowned Manchester United partnership.
"I think it’s up to the new manager to decide but what I have to say is I have been training and playing with these guys and they definitely have all the ability they need to become top players," Vidic told the official Manchester United website.
"I think Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, first of all, are people who are attracting a lot of interest here because they are national-team players and the future of English football, not just Manchester United.
"They definitely have the physical strength, pace and technique to play for this club and I think now is the time for them to step up next year and to maybe form the new partnership with Jonny Evans.
“I believe those three have to be the players who are carrying on and becoming the United defenders for the next seven or eight years. I think they have that capability and the experience to step up."
Along with Ferdinand and Vidic, Manchester United could also lose Patrice Evra. The French veteran will also see his contract expire next month, and his future remains unclear. The club are, however, moving to secure a long-term replacement for Evra, with a bid having been made for 18-year-old Southampton left-back Luke Shaw.