Former Manchester United defender Nemanja Matic has claimed that the development of both Phil Jones and Chris Smallingwas hindered by his and Rio Ferdinand's continued absence due to persistent injuries.
Chris Smalling was signed by United from Fulham in 2010, while Phil Jones was signed a year later from Blackburn Rovers. Sir Alex Ferguson recruited the pair, who were both 20-years-old at the time of signing, with an eye to the future and planned to develop them by playing the youngsters alongside the more senior defensive duo of Vidic and Ferdinand.
Fair enough Ashley Young has had some good moments for United this season, but I just can’t comprehend why he starts over Luke Shaw. I’m also still bemused as to how Chris Smalling is at the club, but there we go.— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) March 5, 2018
However, the inexperienced Smalling and Jones were instead thrusted into first team action sooner rather than expected, after both Vidic and Ferdinand were forced to miss large portions of the campaign due to persistent injury problems.
To this day, the younger defensive duo have struggled for consistency and both have endured some poor individual displays of late - something which Vidic feels he is partly responsible for.
"It didn't help them [Smalling and Jones] because they didn't have a more experienced player to pick their brain when they played," Vidic revealed at a media coaching session at St George's Park, as quoted by ESPN. "It's not just about playing together with an experienced player.
"If Phil Jones is 24 and playing alongside someone who is 34, the player who is 34-years-old is using his brain more than the 24-year-old.
"To rise, he needs to be encouraged a bit and made to feel comfortable in his shoes," the former United player continued.
"If you lose that belief and think: 'Should I be here, or here, or be here, then it's difficult to play," he said. So that didn't help them.
"Even if they do something bad, you say: 'OK, he's 24 but where was I to help him?"