Saturday 20 December 2014

Dwindling defence - who else will follow Nemanja Vidic out of Old Trafford?

Published 07/02/2014 | 12:49

Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand may be in their final season at Old Trafford
Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand may be in their final season at Old Trafford

Nemanja Vidic announced he is leaving Manchester United at the end of the season and is unlikely to be the last defender to do so.

David Moyes has suggested that there will be change in personnel in the summer after a disappointing season so far, characterised by below-par performances from the reigning Premier League champions.

The defence could well see the biggest clearout and the United captain is unlikely to be the last to see his United career come to an end in May.

Patrice Evra

In the eight years he has been at Old Trafford the left-back has been a huge success, a nightmare debut against Manchester City aside.

His £5.5 million transfer to United has proved to be a shrewd piece of business, but after nearly 350 games, five Premier League titles and a Champions League, his time at Old Trafford could well be coming to an end.

Out of contract at the end of the season, David Moyes has made no secret of his desire to add competition in this area, with Leighton Baines close to joining last summer.

Has played 18 league games this season, but was told he is no longer an automatic choice and the vice-captain is tipped to follow in Vidic’s footsteps and leave at the end of the campaign, having both joined the club together in January 2006.

Rio Ferdinand

After forming one of the meaning centre-half partnerships in the Premier League with Vidic, Rio Ferdinand looks increasingly likely to follow the Serbian's footsteps this summer, though not entirely on his own terms.

The 35 year-old had been a rock at the United defence since joining for £30 million in 2002, but niggling injuries and the emergence of Jonny Evans has seen his influence reduced in recent years. The former England international been used even more sparingly by David Moyes this season, featuring just seven times in the top-flight.

Has cut a more frustrated figure on the sidelines and his recent tweet about who would be the next Premier League manager to be sacked was depicted by some as a dig at Moyes, something he vehemently denied.

With 444 appearances for United and 10 major trophies, will look back on a highly successful period at the club, even if the final season will leave a sour taste.

Chris Smalling

Like so many of his colleagues this season, his form has dropped off considerably over the course of the past 12 months.

Has been utilised more often at right-back than centre-half and perhaps the chopping and changing has hindered his progress, but there have been glaring lapses in concentration throughout the campaign.

Moyes has spoken about giving players the chance to impress and if they fail to do so will find themselves surplus to requirements in the summer and on that score could badly do with an improvement in form.

On course to feature in more league games than any other season at Old Trafford, a result of injuries to those around him rather than overly impressive performances on the pitch.

His positional play and distribution have been called into question on a number of occasions but is expected to get at least another season to demonstrate his undoubted potential.

Alex Buttner

In the summer of August 2012 Vitesse Arnhem agreed to sell Buttner to Southampton, but that move was scuppered and he agreed a five-year deal at Old Trafford instead. In a twist of fate, the failed move allowed Luke Shaw to claim the left-back position at St. Marys and the highly sought-after English teenager is now a reported transfer target for Moyes.

The Dutch full-back has struggled on the few occasions he has played this season – just eight games in all competitions – and with uncertainty over Patrice Evra’s future will never get a better opportunity to stake a claim in the first team.

A player likely  to seek pastures new in the summer and if he doesn’t, can expect little more than reserve team and Capital One Cup action if he remains.

Rafael and Fabio da Silva

While Fabio’s future looks likely to be away from the Red Devils – his loan move to Cardiff City follows on from a similar stint at QPR last year and is out of contract at the end of the season  – the form of Rafael will also be of concern to the United manager.

The right-back has over the past couple of years eliminated the number of rash tackles and concentrated more on his defensive duties, but has looked vulnerable for the majority of what has been a difficult season for United.

Whether their agent told Italian press that he expects both players to leave in the summer as part of a negotiating tactic remains to be seen, but odds are that at least one of the twins will be playing elsewhere for the 2014/15 season.

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