When Phil Jones burst on to the scene for Blackburn Rovers against Chelsea at the tender age of 18, I was certain that one day he would make a top-class defender for England. Now, I'm not so sure.

Without the leadership and presence of Nemanja Vidic beside him, Jones has looked unstable in a United backline lacking cohesion for most of this season so far. Indeed, the Red Devils have only kept two clean sheets this season in the league - against Crystal Palace and Chelsea and they are also lacking in midfield.

Darren Fletcher's return to training is a welcome boost - but given the amount of time the Scot has been out of action for, there have to be doubts over whether he can ever return to the performance levels of a few years ago, when pundits were praising his all-action style.

Jones was the only surviving member of the squad that narrowly beat Stoke to play against Norwich in the Capital One Cup, but he was moved into a midfield role to accommodate the return of Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

David Moyes may have just whacked a nail on the head.

Similar to Chelsea eccentric David Luiz, Jones loves to get forward from defence and make play happen, but, given United's frailties this season, he is best advised not to do that so often while they try and concentrate on tightening up.

Without Jones, United still possess four competent centre-backs in Ferdinand, Vidic, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling, so they are not lacking in numbers. 

Not only would this free up Jones' game a little and allow him to relax, it would also release some of the weight from Michael Carrick's shoulders. The amount that Carrick has had to do over the last year, I'd be surprised if he isn't booking regular chiropractor appointments.

This also creates the option to use Marouane Fellaini in a more advanced role should United need to mix their game up a little. Defences hated playing against the Belgian because of his physical presence.

Of course, Fellaini would not displace Wayne Rooney from that attacking midfield spot - he would be more likely used from the bench, or if Moyes decides enough is enough with his underperforming wide men, he can play more central players (as Arsenal have done this season to great effect).

Rooney can then be complimented by two of Fellaini, Shinji Kagawa and Adnan Januzaj - with the one left out always a very decent option from the bench.

Versatility is a brilliant tool for a player and a manager to have - but the manager must use it well. The tools are all there. Now go and make a winning machine.

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Topics:
#Manchester United
#Phil Jones
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