When Phil Jones signed in the summer, I looked at what it meant for the likes of John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Jonny Evans, highlighting what the transfer might hint at for other players coming and going around United. At the point of writing, O’Shea and Brown were yet to leave the club, so although I had a slight hunch they might go, I didn’t really expect it to happen. In fact Ferguson shocked us all by letting both O’Shea and Brown go as it seemed to leave a gaping hole at right-back, but he obviously had full confidence in Chris Smalling adapting his game to play there, which he has.
Some people said Phil Jones would just be a bench warmer this season, but with 3 games gone and Phil Jones playing a full ninety in two of them, those people appear to be wrong. Admittedly injuries to both Ferdinand and Vidic have helped him achieve that, but that doesn’t diminish his impressive performance. Any normal team would massively miss having Ferdinand, Vidic and Rafael out, but Jones has been a key factor in making sure we haven’t. If Ferdinand can’t keep fit for long periods of time, then he may well find out he’s lost his place to Phil.
So what’s special about the lad? I can imagine some of the bitters saying, “Wow, he’s come in and covered for Ferdinand, that’s not much,” in their usual misinformed tone. Well, there our many things that makes this lad special and capable of being the best defender in Europe (if not the world) one day, but there are two stand-out qualities that I should spend my time talking about; his age and versatility.
While praising his performances and ability, it’s all too easy to forget that Jones is still a teenager. For somebody his age, he shows incredible strength in his tackling, charisma in his play and calmness on the ball. He’s strong enough to put up a fight against anybody in the league and when he’s got the ball he powers forward and never looks like losing it. He’s not afraid to go a long distance with the ball at his feet and that sums up his personality and style of play. The fact he plays like an adult means many consider he is one, which definitely bodes well for his future when he is in fact older and more experienced.
Then there’s his versatility. Jones is at his best when playing at centre back, but during pre-season we saw him comfortably perform at right back against New York; at Blackburn last season Jones was even deployed as a defensive centre midfielder. I’ve already mentioned his attributes, and these are key in allowing him to be so versatile. If we needed a right-midfielder in the future and everybody who naturally plays there was unavailable, I genuinely feel Jones could fill-in there. In fact, I could see Jones playing anywhere across the defence or midfield. When Jones broke down the right wing against Arsenal, I was screaming at Nani to pass it to him. Remarkably (or maybe not so, it is Nani!), I trusted Jones more with the ball than Nani.
What I’m trying to say is, we’ve really got a great player in Jones. When you look at how good and young he is, in my opinion, he’s bound to be one of the best defenders in the world when he’s at his prime. His versatility gives him even a greater chance to get more games this year and develop. I’m happy and comfortable to have him in the team now, so imagine how great he’ll be when he’s in his late twenties? If it is the case that he reaches the peak of football, then imagine what a bargain buy he would have been. Rio Ferdinand, arguably one of the worlds top defenders of recent time, cost us
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