Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have praised Nemanja Vidic as a “great teacher” who has given them an invaluable education in the art of defending.
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Vidic, 32, is in the final few weeks of his United career, which started in 2006, after confirming he will join Inter Milan when his contract expires in the summer.
And the next generation of defenders at Old Trafford are grateful to the former Serbia international for the help he has given them.
Jones, 22, told the club’s official website: "He's been a massive part of my development at Manchester United.
"He's been a big influence on my career and he has always helped me along the way. When I've played alongside him, he has been a great teacher and someone who I look up to and admire."
And Smalling, 24, told Inside United: “Nemanja has been here a long time and produced so many great performances and won a lot of trophies. He's set the benchmark in terms of being a real defensive force and, although it won't be easy, we'll do our very best to fill that void.
"One thing he has always told me is 'defend first'. When you're defending, it's always nice to clear a ball by playing it out with a nice pass or set us away on an attack, but at the end of the day you're a defender and your job, first and foremost, is to defend. Therefore, you have to stop whoever you're playing against, no matter what. I'll always remember that.”
United could lose their two most experienced centre-backs at the end of the season with Rio Ferdinand also out of contract, although he has stated his desire to remain at Old Trafford.
Red Devils manager David Moyes was reportedly in Portugal on Wednesday scouting Porto’s highly-rated defender Eliaquim Mangala.