Departing Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic has backed Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to step up and replace himself and Rio Ferdinand next season.

The Red Devils’ veteran centre-back pairing are both set to exit the club in the coming weeks – with the former heading to Inter Milan and the latter’s future unclear – which will leave a gaping hole in the heart of the 2012/13 champions’ backline.

With the pair who have played a key role in so many recent successes heading off, there is a sense of anxiousness around the club regarding their ability to put together a push to return to the top four next season.

Reports have suggested that big name players such as Mats Hummels may be on their way to Old Trafford, but Vidic believes that Jones and Smalling are ready to take over:

“I think it’s up to the new manager to decide but what I have to say is I have been training and playing with these guys and they definitely have all the ability they need to become top players.” He is quoted by Sky Sports.

“I think Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, first of all, are people who are attracting a lot of interest here because they are national-team players and the future of English football, not just Manchester United.

“They definitely have the physical strength, pace and technique to play for this club and I think now is the time for them to step up next year and to maybe form the new partnership with Jonny Evans.

“I believe those three have to be the players who are carrying on and becoming the United defenders for the next seven or eight years. I think they have that capability and the experience to step up.”

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