This season will prove to be a pivotal season in the career of Phil Jones for multiple reasons. The Manchester United defender’s career at Old Trafford hasn’t exactly been off to a flyer, despite him possessing great potential and flashes of brilliance, as his short tenure has been blighted by injuries that restricted his appearances to only 46 games.
Last season, the former Blackburn centre half missed quite a lot of the action due to injury and only managed to appear in 17 league games for the Premier league champions. Fresh and fit now, the 21-year-old is raring to start the next season on a high under a new manager.
Jones is a natural central defender and the youngster wants to see himself in that position at United in the future. However, there is a huge competition for places, as the Red Devils already have Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, and if the rumours are believed to be true, then Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay may also join the brigade.
“Yeah, of course, there’s no hiding. I’ve said all along from day one centre-back is the position I feel most comfortable in but if I’m asked to play right-back or midfield I’ll go and do a job there,” said Jones as quoted in The Guardian.
His versatility and adaptability is where lies his biggest advantage. In order to cement his position in the Manchester United side, Jones who must utilize his natural ability to play in various positions such as the right-back or defensive midfield.
Sometimes, being versatile also hampers the progress of any player as central attributes of somebody are vastly left unutilized and cultured, due to too many changes of positions made on the player by his manager. But, Jones shouldn’t worry about that – he is too young and at his age all he needs is to get games regularly under his belt.
He added: “I don’t see it as a hindrance at the moment – perhaps later in my career, possibly, but not for now.”
One of the advantages of Jones being versatile is the defender would likely to get more number of matches if remains fit. Since, he can also play the role of a defensive midfielder, something which United genuinely lacks especially in big games; he would fit into any system seamlessly.
For instance, Sir Alex Ferguson used him in three crucial matches last season with a particular given role. He was asked to man mark Marouane Fellaini, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo in United’s three crunch ties against Everton, Tottenham and Real Madrid respectively. And without any surprise to anyone, he was excellent in all those three fixtures.
Probably, getting games as a central defender would be hard for him as long as Vidic and Rio continue to flourish for the Red Devils, but he can easily cover the role of a right-back as a deputy of Rafael.
David Moyes will have to rely on squad rotation to keep his side healthy as United like every year will look to compete for all the competitions they participate. It will be interesting to see, how the Scot uses him this season, but one can expect him to feature regularly at various positions, if he remains fit all season.