Soccer-Young backline gives United a facelift


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By Sam Holden

March 8 (Reuters) - The introduction of a youthful centre-back pair in Manchester United's 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was an indication of David Moyes's plans beyond a disappointing first season in charge.

Moyes has continually reiterated his intention to reshape United after inheriting an ageing squad from predecessor Alex Ferguson during a beleaguered debut campaign with the Premier League champions.

His inclusion of Chris Smalling, 24, and Phil Jones, 22, at The Hawthorns was an indication that the former Everton manager is ready to give United a facelift.

"I thought Smalling and Jones played really well," Moyes told reporters after watching his side claim their first back-to-back league victories since December.

"Smalling was excellent by all accounts for England too (against Denmark on Wednesday), while Jones is a very good player.

"He's been out for a month and we needed to try to get him some minutes as we've got some big games coming up. We needed to make sure he's ready to play and they both did a great job."

The centre-back pairing replaced Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, who started United's last match, a dismal 2-0 loss at Olympiakos Piraeus in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Captain Vidic is joining Inter Milan at the end of the season.

If United fans had been dreading the departure of the Serbia defender, Jones's performance will have gone some way to proving he could be a worthy deputy and he opened the scoring in the first half with a thumping header.

"(For the first goal) it was a really good header by Phil after Rafael did good work down the right and got the free-kick," Moyes said.

"Robin's (van Persie) delivery was excellent and, thankfully, Phil got across his defender and scored," Moyes said.

Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck added to Jones's strike as United made light work of an abject West Brom, who have won just one of their last 19 games in all competitions.

The win lifted Moyes's team to sixth in the league with 48 points, nine points off fourth place and a Champions League qualification spot.

United host Liverpool next Sunday and Moyes will be hoping the injection of youth can continue to lift his side in a vital match against their second-placed rivals.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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