"He was a ball-playing centre-back, a very good defender as well, but very comfortable with the ball at his feet. From my time with him at Sunderland, what he is doing now for Manchester United is something I definitely would have predicted was going to happen. He's had some great games and I'm sure, in the long term, he will get a longer run as well.
"I got to know him quite well. He's a really nice lad and great character as well as a great player. He deserves everything he is getting at the moment."
Experienced campaigners Ferdinand and Vidic have little more to prove as they aim to regain fitness and a place in the line-up.
"They're brilliant," enthused Higginbotham. "In my opinion, Rio is one of the best centre-backs this country has ever seen. I'd put him up with anyone. Vidic is another one. He's one of the best centre-backs this club has ever seen. To have those two as options is brilliant and the likes of Evans, Smalling and Jones will be learning off them all the time. What better players to learn off than those two?"
Higginbotham believes that changing the pairing regularly should not have any negative impact on the side.
"I think you find that, when you come to a club like United, you have your partnerships but I think players at this football club are so good that any of the centre backs can play together," he stated. "They are at this club for the reason that they