When the First XI was announced many expected Smalling to play RB and Jones and Evans as CBs. Fergie had other plans. Facing a world class Robin Van Persie you'd expect United to go with Evans and Jones as they've played together whenever they've been available and Vida and Rio have not. We should know by now to never second guess Fergie's thoughts.
Anyway, bar a slip from Smalling they had a solid game.
"More importantly, they hardly seem like a natural partnership at centre-back, where a manager generally wants two players with contrasting qualities. Vidic and Ferdinand, the best duo in the world in the late 2000s, demonstrated that perfectly. The Serb was the hardman, the classic no-nonsense stopper who won everything in the air, although he could be a little clumsy. Ferdinand was less fearsome but more composed – he'd win the ball cleanly, he rarely got booked, he could distribute from the back and he had a turn of pace. Individually they were good, together they were superb.
Evans and Smalling seem too similar; they are both inexperienced and relatively lightweight, while neither appears a natural leader. They are both "modern centre-backs", a phrase used scornfully by pundits as a sympathetic synonym for "a defender who can't defend".
But they can – although they do so more effectively against certain types of strikers: "modern strikers", unsurprisingly."
"Van Persie had one of his quietest games all season. Those were his only attempts at goal – he averages 4.5 shots a game, the most in the league this campaign.
He usually completes 77% of passes – here he had a wretched 44% completion ratio."
"They were disciplined too, not conceding a free-kick in the entire game.
In fact, Patrice Evra's awkward challenge on Theo Walcott in the final minute, for which he collected a yellow card and a bang on the head, was the only free-kick United conceded in their own half."
"Evans and Smalling did what Ferdinand and Vidic can no longer do; they defended high up the pitch, pushing Arsenal away from goal. United didn't set out anything like as deep as they are accustomed to at the Emirates – it meant their pressure on the Arsenal full-backs was continual rather than sporadic, on the break."
The full article here : http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/jan/23/manchester-unit...
Now, will Fergie keep them at CB for Anfield away? I think they deserve another game, consistency is key.
I'm a big fan of all 3 of those players, and while they did have a good game Arsenal still should have scored a couple more I think (as we should've) but there's heaps of potential there.
If they are to become future 1st choice CB's I'd love to see Jones developed in a midfield role, he has bags of energy and determination and is exciting if a little too adventurous going forwards.
Also thought Rafael played really well, if he can stay fit for a while he'll be one hell of a player, so long as he doesn't get himself sent off too often.