There are many ways you can define Manchester United's Phil Jones, here are three of them:
Phil Jones, a big imposing centre-back, strong in the air, great in the tackle and decent with the ball at his feet.
Phil Jones, a right-back with power and strength, has a good amount of pace, lacks controlled crossing ability and concentration.
Phil Jones, a defensive-midfielder, strong in the tackle and in the air, good man marker, lacks creativity and imagination.
The big question is - which one is he?
Phil Jones signed by Manchester United in the summer of 2011, at the age of 19, for a rather large £16 million. Hailed as the new Duncan Edwards, Jones started his career at United coming on as a substitute at centre-back in the Community Shield win over Manchester City.
Now I remember how well Jones had adapted to the United first team up until the FA Cup third round game at the Etihad Stadium. In this game he was deployed as a right-back, and he was just plain awful.
They said he couldn’t get worse after the Newcastle drubbing, in which he started as a centre-back, but four days later it did. Since then I have seen him play mostly as a right-back and on every occasion he has been below average. Why Sir Alex plays him there is beyond me, especially when Rafael has improved greatly, and has been one of United’s star performers.
This season has been largely start and stop for Jones, with injuries affecting him up until recently. He made an excellent job of stopping Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo when he lined-up as a defensive midfielder against Tottenham and Real Madrid respectively.
This past week he again started as a defensive-midfielder alongside Michael Carrick against West Ham United, and to the Hammers' credit they were fully deserving of a point against a United side that lacked creativity.
By no means am I putting this down to Jones being played there, but he just wasn’t need in this game. He wasn’t out to man mark anyone, so he was unnefective, one would feel Ryan Giggs or Anderson would have fared better.
I think it is easy to see where Jones will end up; eventually he will take Rio Ferdinand’s and Nemanja Vidic’s place as United’s centre back, along with Chris Smalling. Until that happens it is hard to see Jones settling on one position because Sir Alex does see him as United’s most versatile player.
Still only 21, time is on his side, I just hope in years to come he will be Phil Jones – amazing central defender, strong in the air, on the floor and pure leader, and not Phil Jones – average right-back who was never given a chance to really shine.
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