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Youth gives tired United a facelift

Manchester United's Phil Jones (R) scores a goal against West Bromwich Albion during their English Premier League soccer match at The Hawtho
Manchester United's Phil Jones (R) scores a goal against West Bromwich Albion during their English Premier League soccer match at The Hawtho

By Sam Holden

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

Moyes has continually reiterated his intention to reshape United after inheriting an ageing squad from Sir 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, and plan for life beyond some of their decorated veterans.

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

Captain Vidic announced in February he would be leaving United at the end of his contract in the summer, with Inter Milan confirming they had secured his signature on Wednesday.

IMPRESSIVE JONES

If United fans had been dreading the departure of the Serbia defender, Jones' performance will have gone some way to proving he could be a worthy deputy, opening 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."

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' men 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.

(Reporting by Sam Holden in London, editing by Rex Gowar)

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