Moyes hails United's new centre-back pairing

Manchester United manager David Moyes thinks Chris Smalling and Phil Jones could be England's first-choice centre-back pairing for many years to come.

Manchester United Manager David Moyes acknowledges

United returned to winning ways on Saturday with a comfortable 3-0 win over West Brom.

With most of the focus being on Robin van Persie's possible sending-off, Pepe Mel's future, and United's return to form, one interesting fact slipped under the radar.

Saturday was the first time, surprisingly, that Smalling and Jones had started together at centre-back in the Barclays Premier League even though they have both been at the club for almost three years.

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were the last established centre-back pairing at the club, but with both players seemingly nearing the end of their United careers, an opportunity has opened up for Smalling and Jones to stake a claim for the two available positions.

And it is not just United who can prosper, according to Moyes.

"I think the future will probably be with Jones and Smalling as the two future England centre-backs," the Manchester United manager said.

"The two boys today could easily be the two centre-backs for England in the World Cup.

"They will certainly be competing with the other Manchester United centre-backs to start for this club."

Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill remain Roy Hodgson's first-choice pairing for the World Cup, although the England manager is a fan of Smalling and he gave the former Fulham man his 10th cap against Denmark last Wednesday.

Jones and Smalling dealt well with the threat posed by Albion's hulking striker Victor Anichebe and Moyes will give the two a chance to prove they can succeed Vidic, who is off to Inter Milan, and Ferdinand, who is out of contract at the end of the campaign.

"I've said I wanted see how they do before the end of the season," the Scot said.

"I will be continuing to use Vidic and Rio and Jonny Evans. We know Vida (Vidic) is moving on so we have to take the chance to look at what the younger ones are capable of."

Moyes wrote to United fans earlier in the week thanking them for their support during a season that has gone far worse than he expected.

But instead of Moyes, it was Mel who was the subject of speculation regarding his future after the final whistle on Saturday.

Albion hoped Mel would steer the club away from the relegation zone when they appointed him in January, but seven matches later the Spaniard is still without a win.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster, who was "amazed" he was not sent off for a handball outside the area, is surprised by talk of Mel being sacked, and insisted the players are behind the manager.

"It's gone mad, it's gone crazy. It seems now that every new manager that comes in - unless they start winning straight away and picking up points - then they're going to be in trouble. It's just ridiculous," he said.

"The players don't pay any attention to it in all honesty. Nobody does."

West Brom's players held a meeting with Mel this week after they raised concerns about his style of play.

Foster insists the players do not want the manager out, though.

"It's not like it was a revolt or anything like that. It was just as simple as what goes on in most dressing rooms," the England goalkeeper said.

"I really like him, I think most of the guys do. He's a really nice guy. We're all behind him.

"It's obviously tough for him coming over from Spain but his English is really good and he communicates with the lads really well.

"For us it's quite easy really. We all just get on with it. You don't want to be causing a fuss and kicking off because it's not needed and it's not good for anybody."

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