Nemanja Vidic has sung the praises of former teammate Chris Smalling, who had a brilliant start to the season, but hasn’t been on his best form in recent weeks.

I’ve always loved Chris. I love him because he’s a defender. His mentality is that he likes to defend. 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.

Vidic has also discussed United’s youngsters, with so many academy graduates getting a run out in the first team this season, including the likes of Tim Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.

I think it’s more difficult for defenders, especially when you have three or four of them playing together in the same match. 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.