Former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen believes Phil Jones has the potential to replicate the success of Rio Ferdinand for both club and country.
The 19-year-old has risen to prominence at Old Trafford following his summer switch from Blackburn Rovers, and forced his way into England reckoning with some commanding performances for the Red Devils.
However, Fabio Capello has employed the youngster in a full-back or central midfield position, suggesting he still has some way to go before reaching the standards set by Ferdinand following his move to United in 2002.
"I do not dispute that the Manchester United youngster has massive potential as a centre-half because that is clearly his best position," wrote Hansen in his Daily Telegraph column.
"But playing at centre-half and mastering the role takes time. Ferdinand had his problems as a young centre-half before becoming one of the greats and Jones must still iron out the flaws in his game before he justifies his billing as Rio’s most likely successor.
"I still think Jones has to work on his positional sense – something which might come to him in time, or might not."
Question marks have been made over the future of Ferdinand for both the Three Lions and Manchester United, with Sir Alex Ferguson admitting the 33-year-old needs to change his style of player after losing some of the pace that helped him recover at an earlier age.
As Hansen points out though, it wasn't too long ago that the former West Ham United centre back was regarded as one of the world's best, and Ferdinand will have a key role to play in Jones' development over the coming years.
"I can see why Jones is being compared to Ferdinand and I wouldn’t suggest that Rio was way ahead of Jones when he was a 19 year-old," the Scot concluded.
"When Rio first came onto the scene at West Ham, he was regularly accused of being sloppy in possession. But by the time Rio turned 26, all of those flaws had disappeared and he produced performance after performance at the very top level.
"Technically, Rio is probably better on the ball than Jones and his positional sense is excellent. Jones can certainly match up to Rio, but he still has a long way to go. Playing alongside Nemanja Vidic or Ferdinand on a weekly basis at United will help nudge Jones into position."
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