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Centre-back starts

Jonny Evans - 19
Rio Ferdinand - 19
Nemanja Vidic - 10
Chris Smalling - 8
Michael Carrick - 4
Phil Jones - 3
Scott Wootton - 3
Michael Keane - 2

Stats refer to all competitions in 2012/2013.

29/01/2013 14:28, Report by Adam Marshall
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Blog: Case for the defence

On both occasions, the pair made our short-list for the ManUtd.com Man of the Match award and looked perfectly at home in the middle of the defence. While Smalling and Jones can play at right-back and, in the latter's case, also in midfield, their preferred position is at centre-back and the case they have provided recently is pretty compelling.

This is clearly how squad rotation should work. Other clubs' managers may have been bemoaning the fact that their fringe performers did not grasp an opportunity to impress in the FA Cup last weekend but the opposite is true at Old Trafford. The competition is allowing Smalling and Jones, among others, to give Sir Alex a real headache and food for thought.

Any combination of the five central defenders would fill most fans with confidence at the moment and, after being a position of weakness at the start of the term, it is clearly now one of immense strength. With Evans 25 years old, Smalling 23 and Jones only 20, the future looks extremely bright, particularly when considering Michael Keane is enhancing his growing reputation at Leicester and Scott Wootton is looking to do likewise at Peterborough.

So if you think the boss is finding it hard to select his strikers each week, spare a thought for the conundrum that is starting to really emerge in the heart of the defence as well. Let's hope everybody stays fit and Sir Alex continues to be spoilt for choice.

More: Jones prefers central role | Sir Alex wary of Saints

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