Jones can join United greats


Phil Jones has quickly become one of the most integral cogs in the Manchester United machine this season.

Signed for £16 million from Blackburn Rovers in the summer, the 19-year-old had quickly established himself as one of the Barclays Premier League's rising stars during his time at Ewood Park, making 40 appearances in all competitions since turning professional in 2009.

Sir Alex Ferguson had certainly been convinced, and beat off strong competition from Liverpool and Arsenal to bring the teenager to Old Trafford.

His Red Devils debut couldn't have gone much better, coming off the bench to replace Rio Ferdinand in the FA Community Shield and subsequently helping the side overturn a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 at Wembley against Manchester City.

After an early substitute appearance and start in domestic wins against West Brom and Spurs respectively, Ferguson switched the youngster to right back for the game against Bolton amidst an injury crisis in the position at the club.

Far from shirking the responsibility, Jones made an impact going forward and back, with two assists and a clean sheet in the 5-0 victory.

A similarly accomplished performance in the win over Chelsea led to a second England call-up, and after missing out against Holland after the match was postponed, Jones found himself in the Three Lions fold - again at right back.

His performance in the 2-2 draw against Montenegro drew particular praise from Capello, who suggested Jones was 'born with talent', and needed testing in the central position.

“Phil Jones is born to this. Absolutely. Like Jack Wilshere. Talent is talent. You can’t create talent. You are born with talent," said the Italian post-match.

Whilst Jones' chances for United have since come in a central role, it's not been at the heart of defence.

Indeed, Ferguson has deployed the player as a box-to-box midfielder, using Jones' tackling abilities to break-up play whilst also encouraging the now three-cap international to get forward.

He again impressed in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield, and after notching an own goal against Benfica in the Champions League, showed his finishing prowess with the winner against Aston Villa at the weekend.

His celebration, a wave and point to a laughing Sir Alex, suggested that he'd answered his manager's request.

Make no mistake though, Jones is a centre back at heart, and one of the most promising in the country, Despite his age, Jones is arguably one of the best the country has to offer already, but he's happy to play anywhere for the United cause.

“I enjoy playing anywhere. I enjoy playing football, so wherever I am asked to play I will play,” said Jones.

“If the manager asks me to play right-back, centre-back or midfield, I will go and do a job there. I don’t think it really matters at the moment that I am cementing a spot in a certain position because I am still young.

“Hopefully, as my career progresses that will happen.”

Versatility can often be a double-edged sword for any player, as Phil Neville found out during his time with United, with an ability to play anywhere working against you compared to other one-trick ponies at a club.

Jones appears to be of a different breed though, a little bit special if you will.

Whilst senior professionals Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic appear to hold the keys to the starting positions in his preferred position, Jones is the star-turn in waiting at Old Trafford.

The fact he's starting ahead of others out-of-position tells you one key thing - he has the trust of Ferguson. And with that, you can go a very long way at United.

Given his age, a decade of success for both club and country could easily be around the corner, although he may have a couple of years to wait before that position in-front of David de Gea becomes his for keeps.

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