Date: 18th June 2011 at 1:37am
Written by:

Phil Jones

The England under 21 man needs time at Old Trafford

The news that United had made a deal to bring Phil Jones to Old Trafford was met with a wave of satisfaction rather than excitement by most Reds.

A proven Premier League player –of sorts- who was still in his teens could only be a welcome addition to the record breaking title winner’s squad.

Jones had shown for much of the season that he was a capable defender/defensive midfielder who’s peak years were ahead of him so it made a lot of sense for Sir Alex to fork out £16.5 million on him.

The funny thing is that in the space of only a few days Jones has gone from a capable defensive player to a ‘colossus’ -according to that stuffed donkey aficionado Stuart Pearce, thanks to an assured display against the mighty Ukrainian under 21 side.

Then there was the period last week when it looked as though Liverpool may hijack United’s deal, cue lots of deluded Scousers, on phone-ins and forums hailing Jones as the greatest defender in the history of football, a player so good that his Majesty Daglish could build an entire team around him and duly deliver the Premier League to its rightful home of Anfield.

While Liverpool fans have duly changed their tune about a player they are no naturally glad they didn’t get ‘cos he’s not even all that anyway like la’ most United fans and members of the national press- not to mention Pearce, have been getting a tad over-excited at just how good Jones is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m confident the former Rovers man will have a long and illustrious Old Trafford career ahead of him but some of the praise and expectation being heaped upon him worries me slightly.

Many people both Red and less fortunate, have been quick to predict a similar impact from Jones at Old Trafford to the one Smalling delivered in his debut season.

The former Fulham man was outstanding last season and not even his mum could have envisioned Smalling settling in so quickly and looking so much at ease in a United shirt.

Smalling’s excellence, coupled with Jones’s showing both at Blackburn and for England under 21s has meant that the expectation around the 19 year-old has suddenly increased to almost ridiculous levels.

A player that would do well to reach double figures for United next season is now being touted by some as a possible choice to fill the defensive midfield role already.

I’m not about to be foolish enough to state: “you’ll never win anything with kids” only a total idiot would say such a thing- but I do think a modicum of rational perspective is needed.

Jones has been bought for the long term of that there should be no doubt and if it takes him a while to adjust to life at such a huge club as United then there can be no real complaints.

Players such as Gary Pallister, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and even Cristiano Ronaldo all took at least a season to truly find their feet at Old Trafford before becoming legends so it’s not too negative to think Jones may take at least a year.

All the recent hype from the media and pundits around just how good Jones is has seaped through to many fans -myself included- whereby it’s easy to lose sight of the fact the lad is a teenager who’s barely played 30 top flight games.

All of a sudden there’s a sneakiy feeling that with all the money at Old Trafford seemingly being spent on players such as Luka Modric or Alexis Sanchez, we may have to make do with the defensive players we’ve got- particularly in midfield.

Could Jones come into the United side immediately and do a job in midfield? Probably -at least against the so-called lesser teams, but we shouldn’t expect him to. £16.5 million is a lot of mony I admit but it’s an investment and it’s important, as with all investments, we look for the long-term gains rather than the short term rewards.

I’m as excited as most Reds that we seem to have bagged a future star, but I don’t want to see the eagerness for instant success affect how United handle a player who could turn out to be one of Sir Alex’s most savvy signings.

It’s important that not just the club but also the fans remember that Jones needs time to settle into United and that time may be longer than the US tour, not everyone is a Mexican forward after all.

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