14/08/2009 07:29,
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The squad: Defenders

The big kick-off is edging ever closer, and Reds assistant Mike Phelan continues his assessment of the established first-team players. Next up, defenders...

2 Gary Neville Age 34 Appearances 569 Goals 7
Gary’s one of the most experienced players we have at this club – he’s worn every shirt and won every medal so he needs to keep setting new challenges for himself. I think every game he plays now he’ll treat with the utmost respect. He’s committed to the cause, full of endeavour and he’ll be looking for an injury-free season.

21 Rafael Age 19 Appearances 28 Goals 1
Rafael has been inspirational. He instantly connected with the fans and showed an enthusiasm that’s required for a footballer at United. But he has a lot of progress to make and there are still things in his game he’s learning. He’ll gain that knowledge here – he’s intelligent, a quick learner and he wants to be a winner. Mentally he’s very strong and committed and he’s taken great strides in a short period of time. He’ll be looking to progress again and try and make the right back spot his own.

22 John O’Shea Age 28 Appearances 343 Goals 14
John’s one of the most underestimated footballers at the club. He’s an ever-present in the squad and always willing to do the job asked of him. He trains exceptionally hard and nobody has a bad word about his attitude. He’s a winner and loves being around the club, which is what we love. It’s great to see John progressing – he’s a regular international now and his main aim will be to cement a regular place in the team. John’s versatility is a credit to him. Some say it can go against you but John has a strong mental approach to football. Whenever he’s picked he performs at the highest level.

5 Rio Ferdinand Age 30 Appearances 311 Goals 7
Rio has found the club that really suits him. He’s found stability and a club that has been able to really bring the best out of him. He brings a quality to our defending that not a lot

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