Bruce praises Evans and Ferdinand displays

Former Manchester United captain Steve Bruce has hailed the recent performances of Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand in the absence of injured skipper Nemanja Vidic.

The Serbian defender was ruled out for rest of the season after suffering cruciate ligament damage in December, and Bruce says Evans has proved to be a quality replacement with his recent displays.

"Of course, they have missed Vidic but Jonny Evans has now played over 20 league games and he has quietly done extremely well," Bruce told Yahoo!

"He's only 23, he's played in big games and has handled himself brilliantly. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have got all the headlines because they've had a [rapid] rise, but I think Jonny Evans has done particularly well filling in the gap left by Vidic."

Bruce was also quick to praise Ferdinand and believes the 33-year-old England international's experience has been a key ingredient in the blossoming partnership with Evans.

"It's also important that Ferdinand has come back and just given them that stability. I think defenders get better with age. Even though you might lose that half-yard of pace it gets easier.

"The art of defending lies in your concentration levels, and that is something which gets easier with age. It's particularly important at United, where you are constantly on the attack and you need to stay switched on even when you might not have too much to do."

Manchester United have moved back to the top of the Premier League, winning their last four Premier League games and conceding just two goals in the process, and Bruce says it will be interesting to see how Manchester City react to United overhauling them at the summit.

"They've [United] had a wonderful run, and over January and February they have stayed the course. They had a tough run of games with matches against Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, and they have come through that. Now it will be interesting to see Manchester City's reaction.

"It is the first time they have been behind in five months. In the past, once United have got in front, they have stayed there over the last eight or 10 games. In the past they have run away with it and won the league by 10 or 12 points, but I don't think that will happen this time. From a neutral standpoint, let's hope City stay with them."

Bruce won three Premier League crowns with United, with the first in 1993 ending a 26-year title drought.

The former Sunderland boss says City’s lack of experience in winning titles could give his former side the edge in this season's run-in.

"We found that was the most difficult thing when we won it in '93. It doesn't matter how many talented players you have, make no mistake you get nervous.

"Back in '92 we lost a hell of a lead to Leeds, and in the end we choked, if I'm being honest. But the experience of that helped us the year after. The first one is always the most difficult one."

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By Andy Ha