Manchester United legend Paul Scholes has taken a very public swipe at Chris Smalling and Phil Jones by claiming the Red Devils defenders are injured far too often, ordering the pair to man-up if they want to be a success at Old Trafford.
The retired midfielder blasted the defensive duo after suggesting that the current crop of stars are not up the job at the Theatre of Dreams, warning them they'll need to significantly improve if they're going to challenge for the Premier League title next season.
Scholes spoke glowingly about the influence of former central defensive duo Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and also praised ex-captain Patrice Evra for the important role he played during his time at the club.
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He intimated that the likes of Smalling and Jones are a million miles from the level those stars of yesteryear consistently performed at, issuing something of a wake-up call to Louis van Gaal's existing group of players.
"You look at Evra, Vidic and Ferdinand, and in their prime they were fit all the time," the 40-year-old was quoted saying by The Express. "They were really big characters but when you come to the end of your time at United you have to accept that.
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"There are other people there that need to step up to the plate, and have they done that? I'm not too sure.
"Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been injured far too often to get a good run going and it's difficult when you can't pick the same back four.
"You look now and you wonder who the back four is going to be."
Red Devils supporters might think that Scholes' assessment is a little harsh, particularly when you consider that Van Gaal's side have the joint-fourth best goals against ratio in the entire division, having conceded 36 goals in as many games this term.
However, it's true when he says that the type of performances needed to deliver the domestic title are far superior to what Manchester United's players have produced for most of the current campaign.
Chelsea claimed top spot with relative ease and are 16 points better off than the 13-time champions with two matches still to play, so United's players will have to raise their game if they're going to challenge Jose Mourinho's men next year.
Next up for the Red Devils is a home clash against top four rivals Arsenal this weekend before a trip to relegation-threatened Hull City on the final day of the 2014/15 campaign.
Manchester United fans: Do you agree with Paul Scholes' assessment of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones? Or do you think the Old Trafford legend is being a bit harsh? Have your say in the comment box below!
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