When any great player nears their retirement age, there is always one niggling question amongst fans of football clubs all over the world: "How will the team cope without them?"
And, with Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra all now over 30, this question is bound to crop up among Manchester United supporters.
If recent performances are anything to go by, United's future is in good hands. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were both very impressive in the recent FA cup win over West Ham, and Jonny Evans has been superb throughout the season, giving assured performances during United's defensive crisis earlier in the campaign.
Smalling and Jones are getting occasional chances at right-back, but against West Ham they showed that they are best when employed in central defence.
The season has seen Rafael emerge as a much more mature defender. In addition to his defensive duties, he finds enough energy to aid in attack, and this is especially important because United's wingers have been in woeful form so far in 2012/13. His twin brother Fabio - currently on loan at Queens Park Rangers - will also be available next season.
Alexander Buttner may be the newest addition to the Red Devils defence, but he is one of the finest raw talents in the industry. His potential and high-flying debut performance pushed Evra to form.
With young reserve players like Scott Wootton pushing for chances, we can be assured that young defenders will be continuously available for Sir Alex Ferguson for years to come.
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