Phil Jones deserves his chance at centre-back

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Needless to say, there are problems with the squad at Manchester United. 

One of the most concerning things this season, though, is that whilst there have been issues in central midfield at the club for nearly five years now, those problems have now spread throughout the rest of the team. 

As well as struggles in the middle of the park, there is now a desperate lack of consistency at the back, and a dearth of goals up front.

In Tuesday night's unconvincing 1-0 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk, Phil Jones highlighted all three of these problems in one fell swoop.

In scoring the only goal of the game from a makeshift midfield role, he ended over 300 minutes at Old Trafford without a goal for David Moyes' side, whilst Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans were doing their utmost not to keep a clean sheet in front of David de Gea.

Once heralded as the next great English and Manchester United central defender, Jones has transformed into everything but.

Even in his pre-United days at Blackburn, Jones was often fielded in a defensive midfield position, as the partnership of Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen excelled at the back. 

But that was due to inexperience and competition. By now, Jones should be a regular in central defence.

Even as recently as after Tuesday night's victory over Shakhtar, we were told yet again where his future lay.

"His long-term future will be as a centre-half, but he's doing a job for us in midfield just now," said Moyes after the England international's match-winning display.

The future must come now, though, if he is to fully develop. Jones is 21, and it looks as though he will be well on his way to being 22 before he even gets so much as a consistent run for club and country in his preferred position. 

"The one I've always said I wanted to play is centre-back," he said of the debate over his role. "But if I keep playing in centre-midfield then I'm happy to do that because as long as I'm playing for Manchester United, that's the main thing."

The problem for United, though, is how badly needed he is in the middle of the park. If a makeshift utility man is regularly preferred in a role to your star signing of the summer, then something, somewhere has gone badly wrong. 

It is a huge concern for Moyes that, without Michael Carrick, his best option in defence and midfield is the same player.

Using him as a proverbial midfield crack-plasterer can only hamper his development in the position he has supposedly been destined for his entire career. The phrase 'Jack of all trades, master of none' is certainly one that springs to mind.

And if he keeps being chopped and changed between so many roles, he is in real danger of becoming the next John O'Shea before the next Rio Ferdinand.

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Phil Jones
Premier League
Manchester United

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