“Ferdinand and Vidic are obviously United's first choice but Phil and Chris are a great pair to have in reserve."

- Denis Irwin

27/06/2011 11:30, Report by Gemma Thompson
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Defensive duo excite ex-Red

Denis Irwin says Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have already shown they have the potential to be Sir Alex’s first choice defensive pairing in the future.

The duo have forged a good understanding at international level for the England U21s and Irwin is confident that rapport will continue to grow at club level.

“Ferdinand and Vidic are obviously United's first choice but Phil and Chris are a great pair to have in reserve,” the Treble winner told

“I’ve seen quite a bit of Phil and he certainly looks to be a top player. He’s a big lad and you saw from watching him play for the U21s recently that’s he more than capable of holding his own. And he’s only going to get better playing at a club like this.

“Chris had an excellent first season last year. He probably played a lot more games than he thought he would but he never let anyone down even in the big games.

"Not only is he strong in the air, he’s also got very good feet for a centre-half. Both he and Phil are big, strong lads with great talent.”

Smalling and Jones are likely to be given their first club run-out together during United’s tour of America in July.

The trip will provide Jones with his first real taste of life as a Red along with fellow new signing Ashley Young, and Irwin says tours always provide the perfect opportunity to bond with your new team-mates.

“It’s the best time to get to know the lads and get used to the way United train and the way of life at this club because it’s different to anywhere else,” explains Irwin. “It’ll also make them realise just how big this club is globally.

“Phil and Ashley will both be there and maybe even one or two other new signings.

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