Nemanja Vidic says he has “always loved” Chris Smalling because he likes to defend, but the former Manchester United star has urged patience with the club’s youngsters.
Things have not exactly gone to plan under Louis van Gaal at United this season, but two big positives have been the form of Smalling and also the emergence of several young players.
Vidic has certainly not been surprised by the development of Smalling, who he played alongside during his time at Old Trafford.
“I’ve always loved Chris,” Vidic told MUTV. “I love him because he’s a defender. His mentality is that he likes to defend,” declared Vidic, who played alongside the England international during his time at Old Trafford.
“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.”
Injuries have led to Tim Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Guillermo Varela, Donald Love and Joe Riley seeing action in defence for United this season, but Vidic believes these youngsters need to be afforded patience during the early part of their careers.
“I think it’s more difficult for defenders, especially when you have three or four of them playing together in the same match,” Vidic said. “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. 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.”