Three key men

"The backbone trio of David De Gea, Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand has underpinned United’s dramatic rise to the top of the Barclays Premier League..."

-'s Mark Froggatt

07/04/2012 10:07, Report by Mark Froggatt
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Blog: United's trio of steel's Mark Froggatt says United's current form is due in no small amount to a defensive triumvirate...

For the best part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25 years of management at Old Trafford, United’s league success has been aided by the triangular unit of a consistent goalkeeper and a seemingly impregnable partnership of centre-backs.

Throughout the Nineties, fans at the Theatre of Dreams enjoyed the halcyon days of Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister before Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ushered in a new era of defensive dominance in the new millennium.

Now, with David De Gea and Jonny Evans, Ferdinand has formed a new trio that is underpinning United’s dramatic rise to the top of the Barclays Premier League and could yield a 20th top-flight title crown.

Since the galvanizing 3-3 draw with Chelsea, the three have formed an unbroken unit in eight consecutive league matches from which 22 points have been gleaned. Monday's 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers also extended a run of games without conceding to four.

Of course, this defensive consistency and understanding did not arrive overnight. Summer-signing De Gea endured a tricky start to life in English football. Despite showing glimpses of his undeniable talent, the former Atletico Madrid keeper made several well-publicised errors during the early stages of the season. Ironically, De Gea's low point came against Steve Kean's Rovers - the same side he acrobatically thwarted earlier this week. Although a shock 3-2 defeat on New Year's Eve could never be blamed solely on him, the Spaniard was culpable for Grant Hanley's winning goal and was replaced for the next four games by Anders Lindegaard.

Meanwhile, Evans' opportunities to play had been limited through the autumn by the form of Nemanja Vidic, the new options provided by Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, and his own misfortune - a sending off in the 6-1 defeat to Manchester City.

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