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Man United legend Gary Pallister claims the art of defending is gone

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Gary Pallister

Two former Manchester United stars believe that defending has become somewhat of a lost art in the Premier League.

Gary Pallister and Mikael Silvestre both enjoyed massive success with the Red Devils, helping the club win eight league titles between them.

Pallister joined United from Middlesbrough for £2.3 million in 1989, and went on to enjoy nine successful seasons with the club.

He was widely recognised as one of the finest ball-playing centre-backs of his generation, despite facing some of the toughest strikers in the business.

During a recent interview with , the ex-United defender admitted that football was a very different place when he was playing.

“In the early part of my career you’d get a lot of centre forwards who were pretty robust,” said Pallister.

“You think about some of them – Mick Harford and John Fashanu, for example. It was the job of these guys to mess with the centre half and intimidate them.

“Physically, you’d have to be up to that kind of challenge, and it was something that I found hard when I first started in football because I was very slight.

“You got pushed around by some of these bigger guys and it’s something that I had to try and learn to deal with.

“That included weights and a maybe a few glasses of Guinness to try and beef myself up.”

Silvestre signed for United a year after Pallister’s exit from Old Trafford, and subsequently helped the club win seven major trophies before leaving for Arsenal in 2008.

The French international possessed blistering pace, a factor that was hugely useful to a United team that generally saw plenty of the ball.

His ability to quickly recover made him a nightmare to play against and his skillset would undoubtedly have translated extremely well to the modern game.

Silvestre insists that playing at the back is the most difficult job in the sport, but believes that the way he played closely aligned with how current defenders are asked to play.

“If you switch off, you’re done,” said Silvestre. “You can’t rest like strikers or midfielders can.

“It wouldn’t be a problem for me to play now, but it is harder for defenders to flourish nowadays.

“The game is not in their favour. Some people would go as far as saying the art of defending is gone.”

While Silvestre thinks that more possession-based style of play is problematic for defenders, Pallister believes that the tactical change make sense.

When he was strutting his stuff for United the team would often play on poor surfaces, but advancements in pitch technology have vastly improved the situation.

Pallister feels that he was hampered by poor playing conditions during his career and is envious of how things have evolved.

“A lot of the issues were to do with the pitches,” he said.“If you look at the pitches I played on in the early part of my career, they looked like rugby pitches.

“Nowadays they’re like bowling greens and you can take more risks if you trust the pitch.”