Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson feels his young players can lift senior men like Rio Ferdinand to new heights.

While Ferdinand remains first choice for the Reds, competition for places in the back four is intense with the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans all pushing Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic for a regular starting berth at the heart of the defence.

"Competition is so fierce now with these young lads coming through," Ferguson told

"Jones, Smalling and Evans have all been outstanding. Rio and Vida are well aware they are going to have to play well to keep their places."