Manchester United legend Steve Bruce has hailed the impressive recent form of defender Jonny Evans and believes the experience of Sir Alex Ferguson's side should give them the edge during the title run in.
Evans netted his first United goal in Saturday's 5-0 demolition of Wolves at Molineux, as the club moved four points clear of rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Bruce, currently out of management after leaving Sunderland in November, maintains Evans has slotted seamlessly into the Manchester United first-XI in the wake Nemanja Vidic's knee injury earlier in the season.
"Of course, they have missed [Nemanja] Vidic but Jonny Evans has now played over 20 league games and has very quietly done extremely well," Bruce told Yahoo! Sport.
Vidic had surgery on his right cruciate ligament after suffering the injury in Manchester United's Champions League defeat at Basle in December. The Serbia centre half has targeted a return before the end of the season but Bruce insists Evans has performed with aplomb in the absence of the United captain.
"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 meteoric rise, but I think Jonny Evans has done particularly well in filling the gap left by Vidic," said Bruce.
"It's also important that Rio 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."
And Bruce believes it will be tough for Manchester City to overhaul United at the top of the Premier League, after Sir Alex Ferguson's side extended their lead to four points and cut City's goal-difference advantage to just three.
Two goals by Javier Hernandez and strikes by Johnny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck gave Manchester United their ninth league win in 10 games to pile more pressure on Roberto Mancini's side ahead of their crucial clash with Chelsea on Wednesday.
"They [Manchester United] have 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," said Bruce.
"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."
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