It was the move that no-one was talking about. All eyes, words, blogs and tweets were firmly centred on the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young being the first signing of the summer. Someone exciting, someone with flair, someone to add some style to the reds. Phil Jones, the Blackburn Rovers centre back wasn’t even up for consideration as a signing by the fans, and a defender wasn’t even an afterthought in any transfer speculation chatter at all.
But, as usual, United have gone about their business quietly, and in my opinion quite astutely in bringing Jones to Old Trafford, but that may beggar the question as to why?
Well, think back to 2002. Rio Ferdinand arrived at Old Trafford with a £30million fan fare. He’d just had an impressive World Cup, and had an obvious desire to get away from Leeds United to a place where he was more worthy of showing off what he had in his locker. Upon his arrival he slotted in alongside Laurent Blanc. Blanc was class with the ball at his feet, could read the game like the simplest of books and was a World Cup winner. But past his best – unfortunately. We’d signed him too late.
It was a struggle for Ferguson to nail down a centre-back partnership that was as good, as solid and as reliable as the Bruce and Pallister partnership of 1989 to 1996, and it wasn’t until Nemanja Vidic’s arrival and subsequent bedding in period in 2006 that our defence became fortress like once again.
That’s a ten year gap, and in between those times we’d had reliable players who could do a job – Silvestre, Brown, Johnsen and O’Shea etc, but it wasn’t quite right.
It was far too long a period, and Sir Alex learns from his mistakes the majority of the time.
It’s quite subtle what Ferguson is doing here, and I for one think he’s made a great move. He’s spotted Jones, a 19 year old who plays like someone five or six years older than that, and jumped in to the DeLorean, sped up to 88mph and seen the future. But for £16million?
Well get this – he snapped up Chris Smalling for a reported £10million last year. Same questions at that time? Too much money?
I reckon that in three years time, we’ll be looking at the Smalling/Jones partnership costing £26million, and praising the possibly departed Sir Alex Ferguson for giving us England’s best defensive partnership for the next six or seven years. Bargain. £4million cheaper than it cost to capture Rio all those years before. We’ll be set until 2021 at the back, and that’ll work out at roughtly £2.5million a year.
But that’s the future…what does it mean right now?
Well, Rio is injury prone. He’ll miss chunks of matches and Chris Smalling has already proved to be an excellent back up for him. He’s shown to me already that he’ll be an important player for us in the future, but when Rio is missing right now, I’m comfortable with Smalling slotting in.
Jones is more similar to Vidic, who doesn’t get injured (we all know if he got paralysed from the waist down he’d try to run it off!) but is always culpable of picking up a suspension here and there.
They will be our Carling Cup and FA Cup partnership. They will gel, they’ll be like Rio and Vidic would have been if they were kids knocking about in the junior teams. Watch the young partnership blossom for England under 21s, and then on to the full national team, and they will gradually phase through to our first team as regulars as Rio and Vida phase out.
We can’t forget the other though. Where does that leave our other defensive stars?
We know that Wes Brown is on his way, and it’s been splattered across the back pages that he’ll be joined at Sunderland by John O’Shea. £12m for two thirty plus defenders and Darron Gibson is a great deal, not only money wise but for freeing up the defensive positions too. I think Johnny Evans will become the new John O’Shea, and become the utility defender who’ll get a lot of games but never be a regular, and Fergie will have quietly unearthed a seamless, natural defensive progression, that we’ll barely even notice.
This time, Sir Alex has timed it right, has got the right men, and despite it looking like a large sum of money now…I think we’ll be laughing in a few years. £16 million for Phil Jones?
What do you think to the Phil Jones capture?