Manchester United are renowned for playing attractive attacking football under Sir Alex Ferguson, however it is hard to think of the club without the defensive partnerships such as Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, Jaap Stam and Ronnie Johnson, and Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic coming to mind.
Ferguson raised a few eyebrows when he left his captain out of the Champions League side to face Real Madrid last week but he spoke of the situation after the game, hinting to Sky Sports that it was now a case of one of Ferdinand or Vidic alongside Evans, rather than the two together.
“Jonny has emerged as a real top defender and his form has been fantastic,” said Ferguson.
“The thing about young players, particularly defenders, when you get consistency from them you know you’re on the right track with them.
“I think Jonny has shown great consistency in the last year.”
In light of the United chief’s indication that Ferdinand and Vidic will no longer play together in his side, just how highly do they rank in the history of defensive pairings at Old Trafford?
To start with, the two have won the Premier League more times than any other centre half duo, with four to their name, as well as two League Cups, and a Champions League. In my opinion however, I would class them as the second best partnership that the club have had, only behind the formidable Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.
The Englishmen were at the heart of United’s success in the early 90’s. They helped the club end a 26 year long wait for a Premier League title, winning three in total, as well as three FA Cups and a Uefa Cup Winners Cup in the process of a partnership which lasted seven years consistently. They, along with Schmeichel in goal set the foundation for the success that has since followed.
Between the years of 2007 to 2010, Ferdinand and Vidic formed a duo that was one of, if not the best in European football at the time. Unfortunately, their playing time together has been damaged by injuries that they have picked up over the last few years which has hampered their chances of dominating together over as long a period of time.
I think the consistency and understanding that Bruce and Pallister showed over such a long duration is one of the main reasons why I would regard them as the best partnership, as ability wise there isn’t much to choose between them.
There are uncanny similarities between the two combinations in fact. Vidic encompasses the more no nonsense side of defending and bravery that Bruce used to show, both also possessing excellent aerial ability and strength. Ferdinand, while defensively astute, also has the ability to play out from the back comfortably and is good on the ball like Pallister was.
Although it is all well and good making comparisons, it also has to be remembered that the game has changed in the period of time between the two partnerships. It could be argued that the quality of the Premier League has improved since the 90’s so it would be interesting to see how Bruce and Pallister would have coped in the modern era and vice versa.
As far as the current United team goes, I personally think that as good as Ferdinand has been this season, if Vidic is able to prove his fitness then him and Evans will become the first choice partnership at the back. At 31-years-old you could see Vidic having at least another two years left in him at the highest level , while Ferdinand is already 34-years-old. Evans also offers a lot of what the Englishman does, with his more measured style which can complement Vidic’s uncompromising approach perfectly.