Versatile is one word of many which is often used to describe youngsters joining Manchester United. And that is one word that came to my mind when Phil Jones signed up for Manchester United on 13 June, 2011, for a fee reported to be around 16.5 million pounds.
At the time of his signing, the great Scotsman, Sir Alex Ferguson was quoted saying,
‘At 19 years of age he’s very versatile, He’s mobile, he’s determined and last season he played quite a few games for Blackburn in the centre of midfield.'
A player who, I believe Sir Alex planned to give a few starts in his first season, to ease him into the Manchester United way of life was thrown into the mix owing to unfortunate injuries to multiple first choice defenders, Jones ended up featuring in the first team as many as 42 times over the season, something which, he confesses, he never thought in his wildest dreams.
Through the course of the season, Phil Jones displayed his versatility by playing in the center and right side of defence and successfully fulfilling the role of a holding midfielder.
I, among many, was very excited to see this 5ft 11in burly defender being deployed as a holding midfielder, providing cover to the defence or just embarking on his now famous mazy lung bursting runs through the opposition midfield, flailing his arms around, and leaving players in his wake.
A strong, powerful and uncompromising player, he can easily establish himself in such a role under the expert guidance of Sir Alex, long renowned for bringing the best out of his youngsters by deploying them in different positions around the pitch.
A lot has been said about how United lack a player of Yaya Toure’s calibre, an all action midfielder who is strong, comfortable on the ball and also has ability to chip in with important goals. And more importantly, a player who exudes such raw power, that he can single handedly change the course of a game.
The young Phil Jones is a player who fits the bill perfectly,to be United’s answer to a force of nature like Toure. He has already played such kind of a role in his former club Blackburn Rovers and with the expert guidance of the coaching staff at United and of course Sir Alex, the young Jones could fulfill a role in the United midfield remiscient of the legendary box-to-box midfielder, Roy Keane.
He impressed for England in a friendly win over Spain in the position in October, and Rio Ferdinand said it was a mistake for Roy Hodgson not to play him in midfield at Euro 2012.
However there could still a long time before Phil Jones could perform such a role for his club on a regular basis, there’s still work to be done on his application to the team as well as fine tuning of his technique, but with Manchester United, this 20-year-old international has a bright future ahead.
I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about Jones:
“He can play in different positions always at the top level. I found in my career probably two players Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro… Jones is a talent. So young but a big talent because when he receives the ball he plays always without fear. Good passes, good solutions. I know something about football and the solution that he chooses every time when he receives the ball always the best.” Then-England boss Fabio Capello, November 2011.
Can Jones be the player United need in the centre of midfield?
image: © nasmac